London - The UK government on Friday officially declared a drought in several parts of England, following months of record low rainfall and unprecedented temperatures in recent weeks. At a meeting of the National Drought Group, the government’s Environment Agency said the “drought trigger threshold had been met” in parts of southwestern, southern, central and eastern England.

Drought was last officially declared in England in 2018. The Environment Agency on Friday published a report saying that England as a whole had its driest July since 1935.

The exceptional weather comes as France is also experiencing a record drought and battling huge wildfires.

The Met Office, the UK’s meteorological authority, said the period from January to June this year saw the least rainfall in England and Wales since 1976. That summer saw the use of drastic measures such as roadside standpipes and water rationing.

The government statement said the move to drought status was based on factors such as rainfall, river flows and levels of groundwater and reservoirs and their impact on public water supply.

“We urge everyone to manage the amount of water they are using in this exceptionally dry period,” National Drought Group chair, Harvey Bradshaw, was quoted as saying.

The Environment Agency and water companies “will step up their actions to manage impacts” and press ahead with their published drought plans, including thinks like hosepipe bans.

It stressed that “essential supplies of water are safe.”