OXFORDSHIRE still needs five times the drenching it had in April to end the hosepipe ban.
Thames Water bosses last night said there had been 119mm of rain since the ban came in – but experts say that’s only 16.5 per cent, or about one sixth, of the deficit caused by the dry conditions.
Although 119mm equals 28.5 per cent of the deficit, Thames Water bosses calculate that it only accounts for 16.5 per cent because water is still being supplied to customers.
It came as flash flooding affected a number of roads in the county, including Denchworth Road through West Hanney, near Wantage, which was under water after Childrey Brook burst its banks.
West Hanney parish council chairman Chris Surman said: “The road is closed and drivers heading to Denchworth are having to go back into Wantage to take the long way round.”
And more heavy rain was expected last night with the Met Office forecasting further downpours until Friday.
Thames Water spokesman Simon Evans said it was impossible to calculate at this stage how many more months of heavy rain would be needed for the total remaining deficit of 298mm to be cleared.
But he added that the hosepipe ban, introduced on April 1 because of the drought, would be lifted once the deficit was completely cleared.
He said: “It’s very difficult to calculate how long it might take to clear the deficit at this stage because rain over the summer is used up by the plants and does not help us as much as winter rain.
“April’s rain has cleared the shortfall for March and most of February. It took two years to get into the drought so it will take more than one wet month to get out of it.
“But once rainfall completely wipes out the deficit then there’ll be no need for the hosepipe ban and itwill be lifted. We wouldn’t keep one on if we didn’t have to.
“But what we need is solid winter rainfall, the kind that soaks into the ground and tops up the all-important groundwater, which charges the flows in rivers across our region throughout the year.”
Keen gardener Betty Fletcher, of Stockleys Road, Northway, Oxford, a regular in the Oxford in Bloom competition, said: “We are collecting rain in the water butts but there is only so much you can collect like that and it would be nice if the hosepipe ban was lifted at some point.
“It’s been hard for me to get out into the garden recently because of the heavy rain and I will need to clear some space for my bedding plants at the end of May.”
Yesterday there were flood alerts on the Thames from the Gloucestershire border to King’s Lock, on the Cherwell from Cropredy to Oxford, on the Evenlode and Glyme in West Oxfordshire, on the Ock in the Vale, on Letcombe Brook in Wantage and Grove, on Chalgrove Brook, on the River Thame, and on the Ray near Bicester.
Environment Agency spokesman Jo Slimin said: “Heavy rain has meant flash flooding on the roads and some rivers are coming out of their banks. So far, Oxfordshire has escaped any serious flooding but more heavy downpours are being forecast and we are watching river levels very carefully.”
The situation was so bad in West Hanney an Oxford County Council truck had to be towed out of floodwater in Denchworth Road after becoming stuck as council staff attempted to place road closure signs.
* The hosepipe ban was introduced after the driest two years on record. Last month looks set to be the third wettest April on record for Oxfordshire, beaten only by 1998 and 2000. The average rainfall for April is about 75mm.