AREAS of Hampshire could be hit with a hosepipe ban after a drought permit was approved for Southern Water.

It has been revealed Southern Water were granted the permit from the Environment Agency to continue to take water from the River Test for customers in Southampton, the New Forest and the Isle of Wight.

Now the water company says there is “a risk we will have to use the permit”, which if used means they are “bound to impose temporary usage bans”.

It comes over fears of dropping water levels in the River Test.

Water resource policy manager at Southern Water, Nigel Hepworth, said: “We face a real challenge on water resources in south Hampshire and we have major plans in place to deal with that. In the meantime, we will likely see drought permit applications happen far more often than in the past.

“We are grateful for the hard work of the team at the Environment Agency and also for the productive input from the many stakeholders who shared their views.”

He added: “We’re especially grateful to Natural England, the other key regulator for its constructive approach during the application.”

Mike O’Neill of the Environment Agency said: “We welcome this precautionary approach and Southern Water’s commitment to continue to promote water efficiency and drive its leakage in this area down. Although river flows are just below normal for the time year without the drought permit there is a risk that the water company will not be able to maintain supplies.

“However in agreeing to change the abstraction limits we have been clear with the company that the environment must still be protected if they do need to take more water from the river.

“We will continue to work closely with Southern Water as it develops the necessary long-term sustainable water resource solutions that will reduce the future need for drought permit applications on this iconic river.”