To many, the idea that a country where it seems to be always raining could face drought might appear odd, but on Monday several parts of Britain were officially declared to be facing drought with groundwater levels in some areas falling to alarmingly low levels after two consecutive dry winters.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that much of southern and eastern England was now in a state of drought as the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman held a “drought summit'' of farmers, experts and water companies to discuss the situation said to be particularly serious in south-east England, East Anglia and the East Midlands with some rivers having already dried up.

Warning that more areas could be affected, Ms Spelman said: “Drought is already an issue this year with the South East, Anglia and other parts of the UK now officially in drought, and more areas are likely to be affected as we continue to experience a prolonged period of very low rainfall. It is not just the responsibility of government, water companies and businesses to act against drought. We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now.”

She appealed to the people to save water as experts called for a long-term plan but opinion was divided on ``piping'' water from the wet and water-rich north to the dry south-east of England because of the huge cost involved. Water companies favoured more interconnections between regional water networks arguing it would be cheaper than individual companies augmenting their own resources.

The wildlife charity WWF accused the government of dragging its feet.

“This is a drought we've seen coming. Rivers ...have been dry since September 2011. Back then everyone agreed we would be in a serious drought situation if we had another dry winter, but not much has been done about it,” said a spokesperson.

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