South East Water has announced a hosepipe ban across large parts of Kent following one of the driest summers on record.
A statement on the company's website said the use of hosepipes and sprinklers would be banned from Friday, August 12, and would last until further notice.
The ban also covers parts of Sussex, but some areas in both counties will escape the restrictions.
It added: "This has been a time of extreme weather conditions across the UK. Official figures show this is the driest July on record since 1935 and the period between November 2021 and July 2022 has been the driest eight-month stint since 1976. During July in the South East, we have only seen 8 percent of average rainfall for the month, and the long term forecast for August and September is for similar weather.
"The demand for water this summer has broken all previous records, including the Covid lockdown heatwave. We have been producing an additional 120 million litres of water a day to supply our customers, which is the equivalent of supplying a futher four towns the size of Maidstone or Eastbourne, daily.
"We are taking this step to ensure we have enough water for both essential use and to protect the environment. This will enable us to also reduce the amount of water we need to take from already stressed local water sources."
The temporary restrictions mean customers will be prevented from using hosepipes for watering their gardens, washing cars, patios and boats and from filling swimming and paddling pools.
David Hinton, South East Water's chief executive officer, said the immediate action was vital to reduce the amount of water taken from "already stressed local water sources".
He added: “With the lack of rainfall, the environment is also under considerable pressure with our underground water aquifers below average for the time of year across Kent and Sussex and raw water reservoirs also at a lower level for the time of year."
The company says that as a consequence of dry ground conditions and resulting earth movement, there has been a 50% increase in bursts along its 9,000 miles of underground mains pipework.
Mr Hinton added: “Water is dense and to transport it successfully to homes and businesses we have to operate the system under immense pressure so some leakage is inevitable. Tackling leaks is a long term challenge and one that the industry has been making good progress on.
“In our supply area before the heatwave arrived we were at an all-time low having cut down on the number of leaks across our region meeting the target set by our regulator for the last 13 years in a row. Despite this, we’re increasing the resources available to tackle leaks and are expanding our leakage team by 20%.
“I would like to thank everyone who has already taken steps to try and reduce their overall water use but despite this, demand still remains very high which is why we have taken this decision to bring in temporary use restrictions.”
Further information on exemptions to restrictions can be viewed on South East Water's website at www.southeastwater.co.uk/tubs
Karen Gibbs, Senior Policy Manager at the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), backed the ban, saying it was necessary to prevent long term environmental damage.
She said: “The exceptionally dry weather and high demand for water means restrictions are now needed in these regions to protect water for essential use and to ensure the environment is not left permanently scarred. Our research shows that many people are unsure how to use less water and how their actions can help the environment, so it’s critical South East Water promotes its water-saving freebies and keeps sharing easy ways for people to reduce their use.
“We’d urge anyone who feels they may need extra support during the restrictions to ensure they are registered for the company’s priority services.”