An official drought was declared last week as a hosepipe ban came into force across the area and just before thunderstorms and flash floods were forecast.
South East Water’s first TUB (Temporary Usage Ban) ban since 2012 that could land residents who flout the ban a £1,000 fine, came into effect at midnight last Friday (August 12), the same day an official ‘drought’ was declared across Kent.
The drought status was announced for the county along with seven other areas of the UK following what officials have said is the driest summer for 50 years.
The National Drought Group, made up of representatives from various government departments, environmental agencies, vested interest groups such as the National Farmers Union and the water industry, announced on Friday that eight of 14 areas had now been moved to ‘drought’.
These included Devon and Cornwall, Solent and South Downs, Kent and South London, Herts and North London, East Anglia, Thames, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and East Midlands.
The status is the second of four stages, the first being ‘prolonged dry weather’. Stage three and four are ‘severe drought’ and ‘recovering drought’. The last time a drought was declared in the UK was in 2018.
This year, south-east England has clocked up the greatest number of days of the year with little or no rain for more than 40 years.
According to Met Office data, the region recorded 144 days with average rainfall of less than 0.5mm between January 1 and August 6 – the highest
It is the highest number recorded for the period since 1976, which saw 166 days of little or no rain up to August 6 and a total of 187 days of little or no rain between the start of the year and the end of August.
The Met Office said Tunbridge Wells saw highs of 35°C last weekend. The highest temperature recorded in the town this year was 39°C in July.
It is expected that the drought status will remain in place until around October, despite thunderstorms now being forecast in the area with a yellow weather warning for parts of Kent having been issued earlier this week over fears of flash floods.
Kent County Council has warned of the risk that rain could fall in the form of thundery and torrential downpours, which – given the parched ground – would run off and lead to potential surface water flooding.
Areas in Tunbridge Wells that have been susceptible to flash floods in the past include The Pantiles, the bottom of Mount Pleasant Road as well as many areas in the town of Paddock Wood.
The Met Office says it is likely to become drier again from Thursday, with daytime highs generally in the low to mid-20s.
Meanwhile, residents in Tunbridge Wells have been asked to ensure their bins are kerbside and ready for collection much earlier during the spells of hot weather.
A spokesperson for the authority said: “I can confirm that since last Wednesday (August 10) the recycling and waste crews have been starting at 5am in order to beat the heat.
“Usually we ask people to have their bins out by 7am, but in recent hot weather it’s been 6am and in the extreme heat it’s moved to 5am.”