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Man claims to have stored thousands of litres of rainwater to protect his exotic plants from drought

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A green-fingered father who has spent more than a decade turning his garden into a tropical jungle has stored thousands of litres of rainwater to protect his exotic plants from England’s looming drought – as millions of Britons face a hosepipe ban. 

Mike Clifford’s 65ft-long garden behind his suburban bungalow in Poole, Dorset is packed with extraordinary species native to South and Central America, Africa, and China, many of which are at risk of dying due to the shortage of rain.

Aerial photos lay bare the stark contrast between the 61-year-old’s luscious green plot and his neighbours’ parched lawns.

Mr Clifford, who lives in a part of the country where there are no formal restrictions in place but future ones have not been ruled out, says he has built a system of water butts buried beneath ground containing over 2,000 litres of rainwater collected in winter which he hopes will be enough to save his garden.

The avid gardener uses submersible pumps connected to the butts as well as two hosepipes to soak the plants. If his water reserves last until September, then he will be able to salvage the garden for next summer. He will then dig up and pack most of his micro-jungle away in a back-breaking effort to protect it from the winter cold.

He said: ‘The hot weather has affected each species differently – many of the plants like the gingers have had an early blossom.

‘We would normally expect to them to flower in September just a few weeks before they need to be packed away for winter, so its nice to enjoy them a little earlier. But the big leafed plants don’t like the heat. They are wilting terribly. If you go out there at midday, you can see it happening. I water them quite a lot but I’m trying to cut it back. I’ve got water butts buried 4ft beneath the ground.

‘A potential hosepipe ban is a bit of a worry but we’re getting to the end of the season so as long as it makes it to September I’ll be happy’.

It comes as millions of Britons could be facing a hosepipe ban after a leaked document revealed three more water companies are planning restrictions. 

An aerial photo which shows Mike Clifford’s home and his tropical jungle garden in Poole, Dorset. By contrast, his neighbours’ gardens look parched as temperatures climb and a drought in England looms

Mr Clifford's jungle garden at the back of his home in Poole, Dorset

Mr Clifford’s jungle garden at the back of his home in Poole, Dorset

Mike Clifford has stored thousands of litres of rainwater to protect his 25-year old exotic garden from the looming drought

Mike Clifford has stored thousands of litres of rainwater to protect his 25-year old exotic garden from the looming drought

Mr Clifford tends to his plants in the evenings and on weekends alongside his full-time job designing mobile homes

Mr Clifford tends to his plants in the evenings and on weekends alongside his full-time job designing mobile homes

The garden is home to giant dandelions from the Canary Islands and Pararistolochia goldieana, a plant from central Africa which has only flowered once in Europe

The garden is home to giant dandelions from the Canary Islands and Pararistolochia goldieana, a plant from central Africa which has only flowered once in Europe

The 61-year-old has spent decades turning the plot behind his suburban bungalow into a tropical jungle full of rare plants

The 61-year-old has spent decades turning the plot behind his suburban bungalow into a tropical jungle full of rare plants

Planned hosepipe bans could see the water supplies of some 33 million people affected

Planned hosepipe bans could see the water supplies of some 33 million people affected

Q&A: Where are hosepipe bans and what could happen if I break one? 

Where have hosepipe bans been introduced?

  • Manx Water: Isle of Man, from last Friday
  • Southern Water: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, from yesterday
  • South East Water: Kent and Sussex, from next Friday
  • Welsh Water: Pembrokeshire and small part of Carmarthenshire, from August 19
  • Thames Water:  Greater London, the Thames Valley, Surrey, Gloucestershire, north Wiltshire and parts of west Kent, in the ‘coming weeks’.

What are the rules?

Once the ban is in force you will not be allowed to use a hosepipe or sprinkler to water your garden, clean your car or boat, fill up a swimming or paddling pool or an ornamental pond. Pressure washing a patio is also banned. But the use of watering cans is allowed.

Who is exempt?

Those with disabilities – who have a blue badge – are exempt for watering their garden. So are those watering an area for a national or international sports event.

People watering newly laid turf and newly bought plants may apply for exemptions.

Commercial car washes and professional window cleaners are not affected by the ban.

What happens if I break the ban?

You could be prosecuted and subject to a fine of up to £1,000 in the courts if found guilty.

Mr Clifford replants the species in the spring and the extraordinary flora grows up to 12ft in height in the summer months.

This year he has seen several new additions come to fruition – including the incredibly rare St Helena Ebony, or Trochetiopsis ebenus, which is critically endangered in the wild.

The 4ft high plant with broad white flowers was once believed to be extinct until scientists found two small plants attached to a rock in Mexico. They took cuttings from the plants which were then sent to Kew Gardens, London, to grow more of its kind.

Mr Clifford began tropical gardening when he was inspired by a TV documentary on the subject in the 1990s. He and his wife Tina regularly open up their garden under National Garden Scheme and have raised thousands of pounds for charity over the years.

The couple moved into the bungalow 10 years ago and dug up most of the plants from their old address.

Their garden is home to giant dandelions from the Canary Islands and Pararistolochia goldieana, a plant from central Africa which has only flowered once in Europe. There is also the Angel’s Trumpet, whose hallucinogenic properties were traditionally used by shamans in South and Central America to conjure visions.

Mr Clifford tends to his plants in the evenings and on weekends alongside his full-time job designing mobile homes. His son, Harry, 26, helps with the heavy lifting. Mr Clifford stores his plants in three greenhouses and a summer house over winter. Those that have to be left out and wrapped in a fleece. It can often take two to three weekends to complete the work.

Yesterday Britain’s biggest water company, Thames Water, which supplies some 15million people, said it would announce a ban in the coming weeks.

Restrictions covering nearly three million people have already been announced by Southern Water, South East Water and Welsh Water.

And an internal Environment Agency document seen by the Daily Mail reveals that the water companies discussing whether to bring in a ban are Yorkshire, with five million customers, Severn Trent with eight million and South West with up to two million. If enacted, it would bring the number of people under a hosepipe ban to around 33million.

Meanwhile, Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss has weighed on hosepipe bans after two water companies announced others warned they may need to follow suit, following the driest eight months from November to June since 1976 as well as the driest July on record for parts of southern and eastern England.

There have been dire warnings that drought conditions could last three months. The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology predicts ‘exceptionally low’ flow levels in rivers until October. 

Thames Water covers parts of London, Surrey, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Kent. Its hosepipe ban comes despite the fact it lets 635million litres of water a day leak from its pipes.

Further pressure for water companies to act could come this week when the Environment Agency is expected to declare that England is in a state of drought.

The bans make it an offence to use a hosepipe to water a garden, wash a car or boat or fill up ponds, and can attract a £1,000 fine in the courts.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: ‘On the Environment Agency’s sliding scale, we are now one stage before a drought. If this dry weather picture continues, parts of England could move into drought.’ 

Thames Water workers deliver bottled water the residents of the sleepy, picturesque village of Northend on August 9

Thames Water workers deliver bottled water the residents of the sleepy, picturesque village of Northend on August 9

A tanker from Thames Water delivers a temporary water supply to the village of Northend in Oxfordshire today

A tanker from Thames Water delivers a temporary water supply to the village of Northend in Oxfordshire today

Bottles of water supplied by Thames Water for residents of the village of Northend in Oxfordshire today

Bottles of water supplied by Thames Water for residents of the village of Northend in Oxfordshire today

A man walks his dog along a sun-bleached pathway in Richmond Park on Tuesday, as heat warnings are extended

A man walks his dog along a sun-bleached pathway in Richmond Park on Tuesday, as heat warnings are extended

A farmer from Pimperne, near Blandford, Dorset uses a harrow to create a natural break preventing the spread of flames in a 40 acre field today

A farmer from Pimperne, near Blandford, Dorset uses a harrow to create a natural break preventing the spread of flames in a 40 acre field today

Ms Truss said: ‘My view is that we should be tougher on the water companies and that there hasn’t been enough action to deal with these leaky pipes which have been there for years.

‘I have a lot of issues with my water company in Norfolk, which is a particularly dry area of the country, and those companies need to be held to account.’

She told the Daily Express hosepipe bans ‘should be a last resort’, adding: ‘What I’m worried about is it seems to be a first resort rather than the water companies dealing with the leaks.’

Scientists warn that the likelihood of droughts occurring is becoming higher due to climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities.

Climate change is also making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely – with last month’s record temperatures made at least 10 times more likely because of global warming, and ‘virtually impossible’ without it, research shows.

Government minister Paul Scully said it is ‘always sensible’ for people to conserve water, when asked about the possibility of a hosepipe ban for London.

He added: ‘But we’ll look carefully because the whole point about London and the South East is that the more development you have and the less rainfall there is, then obviously there’s less to go around and we’ve got to be careful.’

It came as tinderbox Britain is facing ‘lethally hot’ temperatures today with the mercury set to reach 93F today in southern parts of England.

How to keep your garden blooming through a heatwave: DO use dish water to feed the flowerbeds, and DON’T fret about the lawn going brown. With hosepipe bans looming, the Mail’s green-fingered guru is here to help

By NIGEL COLBORN for the DAILY MAIL

What William Blake would make of my garden if he were alive to see it, I dread to think. The Romantic poet, who memorably described England as ‘a green and pleasant land’, would be appalled at the way my lawn has been reduced to an expanse of parched, brown, dehydrated stalks. 

This is not an easy time for gardeners. After years of planting, seed-sowing, nurturing and even grooming, our lawns have all succumbed to drought. 

We’ve had heatwaves and dry spells before, not to mention floods, June frosts and ruinous gales. But this year’s blend of unusual conditions has really walloped us. 

For once, it’s OK to blame the weather. Last winter was abnormally mild. Even in chilly Lincolnshire, we were almost frost-free. As a result, our first snowdrops flowered at Christmas instead of late January.

'The good news is that, in the hands of a canny gardener, plants will recover and lawns will green up again because, by following a few simple rules, we can make our gardens bloom whatever the weather'

‘The good news is that, in the hands of a canny gardener, plants will recover and lawns will green up again because, by following a few simple rules, we can make our gardens bloom whatever the weather’

Dahlia Teesbrooke Audrey

Dahlia Teesbrooke Audrey

A parched lawn in a home owner's garden

A parched lawn in a home owner’s garden

Later, abnormally mild weather was combined with heavy rainfall. So everything grew like Topsy until May, which was unseasonably cold. Since then, my garden has had no appreciable rain. And in July, it roasted at 40c (104f). 

Despite everything, however, I’m not distressed. Record high temperatures may mean that we will have to adapt the traditional British garden to cope with harsher extremes of weather — but the good news is that, in the hands of a canny gardener, plants will recover and lawns will green up again because, by following a few simple rules, we can make our gardens bloom whatever the weather. 

PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE 

Everything we have looked at so far is a sort of first aid. But, with extreme weather events likely to become more frequent in the decades to come, we will have to change our ways. 

However much we love plants that need frequent watering, we will have to cut down the number of them we have in our gardens or abandon them. 

This prospect isn’t as depressing as it might sound. Britain has more than 80,000 different ornamental plant varieties in cultivation, so we have plenty of species to choose from. 

Abutilon

Abutilon

We may have to say goodbye to delphiniums, border phloxes, candelabra primulas, Himalayan blue poppies and many much-loved perennials. But other plants, once too tender to live outside in this country, could flourish. I have even a Fascicularia — a bromeliad related to pineapples — which has lived and flowered in my garden for a decade. 

Plants like that, which resist drought and withstand violent storms or excessive rain, will soon be part of our new garden flora. 

I grow several pelargonium species now as ordinary garden perennials. I will be trying more with the same treatment this winter and bet they too will come through unscathed. 

Nerium oleander

Nerium oleander

Among shrubs, oleanders, Australian hibiscus and Abutilon have grown as readily outside as Michaelmas daisies or border lupins. Dahlias, which had to be lifted for winter, sprout every spring. 

That said, there is no reason why we shouldn’t make every effort to ensure we have as much water as possible to hand in case of a (non-)rainy day. 

It’s a good idea to fill a tub or, perhaps, a children’s paddling pool in advance of any hosepipe ban.

Australian hibiscus

Australian hibiscus 

Though far too late to do much good, I recently installed three new water butts in my garden. What surprised me was the amount of water they collected from even the briefest shower. I now wish I had installed six. 

Deep frosts and cold spells will still come. But they are scarcer now and tend to be short-lived. A tough winter could kill my exotics and turn my collection of succulent plants into a stinking mush. 

But my instinct tells me they will thrive for years yet. It may even be likely that the rising sea engulfs my fenland garden before Jack Frost bumps off the African aloes. 

Road signs in our region bear the letters E.R. and nothing else. Those mark designated Evacuation Routes, in case of a major tidal surge. Makes you think a b it, doesn’t it?

And here’s how…

Way to water

Sod’s Law dictates that just when water becomes the gardener’s most vital commodity, hosepipe use is forbidden. 

One water company has already announced a ban and more are due to introduce one soon. 

If you are unfortunate enough to live in one of the areas where restrictions are in place, you may well find yourself lugging hefty watering cans around or working out ways to recycle so-called ‘grey water’ from baths, showers or the kitchen. 

Dishwater, even if it contains detergents, is usually harmless to plants. Water from a bath or shower, if you have the means of saving it, will also be fine. 

The truth is plants don’t seem to mind dirty water. It’s impossible to water everything in a garden — even a small one — so we have to prioritise. 

As we have seen, lawns are so resilient you can put their hydrating needs towards the bottom of your list. 

Water for newly planted shrubs or trees and young, herbaceous, perennial plants should take precedence because it takes at least one growing season for them to become established. 

Generous soakings are essential. In the normal course of events they are sustained by rainfall but, in a year’s like this, a thorough watering — even just once — can save the life of a valuable shrub. 

In much of Britain, dahlias, penstemons, tall daisies and most other perennials also need regular watering. 

For those of us who are not subject to a hosepipe ban, life is slightly easier. 

I’ve been treating the most needy among my plants with a handheld hose. When watering that way, the key is to have the tap only halfway open, so that the gentle flow penetrates the soil more thoroughly, reaching the plants’ roots where it is most needed. 

The timing of your watering is also important. Early morning or late evening is best, giving each individual plant a good, steady soak. Water sprinkled over the leaves evaporates rapidly and most is wasted. 

The Scots have a saying — ‘Mony a mickle maks a muckle’ — which basically means many little things make a big thing. But when it comes to plant-watering this rule doesn’t apply. 

A thorough drenching once a week is more effective than a series of modest daily waterings. 

Even in hot weather, thoroughly watered plants will look perky for several days longer. 

Sprinklers are fine in cool weather. But they can be wasteful, needing the tap to run for a long time before the soil is thoroughly watered. 

Trickle irrigation kits are better for food crops grown in rows, or for container plants which won’t be moved during summer. 

That said, moving containers to more sheltered or shady places may help. 

If a hosepipe ban is imposed in my area, many of the plants in my summer containers will have to die. I will save only those plants which I know will be difficult to replace, or which have special or sentimental value. 

Those will become stock plants for next year. I propagate all my summer container displays from cuttings taken from the stock plants that spend their winter in my heated greenhouse. Those are rooted from October, for planting outside the next May. Finally, if a hosepipe ban is coming your way and you have a garden pond, make sure that it’s topped up before the ban is imposed.

Taking care of your borders

One good point about the drought is being relieved of tedious summer chores. 

My soil is so hard in places that I can barely pierce it with a garden fork. 

All I’m doing, currently, is pulling out thistles, dandelions and other invasive weeds wherever I see them. Weeds compete with cultivated plants for moisture, light and nutrients and so be ruthless with the blighters. 

One boon of a drought is that most weeds are as vulnerable to water shortages as the plants which you want to prosper. Only pernicious weeds such as bindweed and couch grass have deep, almost indestructible roots. 

Normal summer pruning of fruit trees, wisterias and shrubs can continue as usual. I’ve given our roses a light prune, too, removing faded or roasted blooms, always cutting just above an outward-facing bud. 

Another benefit of the drought is that we forget nagging obligations and can relax a bit more. The evenings, after all, are rather delightful — especially after a sweltering day

LAWN CARE 

My lawn looks brown and dead — and yours probably does, too. But fear not, the grass roots are almost certainly still alive. Of all plant families, grasses are by far the most resilient.

In some regions of Africa and Australia, rain falls for only a small part of the year. Even so, grass which is dust-dry and looks dead is transformed to a verdant green after the first shower.

So leave your lawn to recover. Avoid wear and tear by keeping off the grass as much as possible. Don’t apply feeds or fertilisers — they won’t help at all and would be a waste of money. I never fertilise my lawns — never have and never will. They’re normally green enough for me without feed.

'Living grass lawns help to sustain soil health and retain moisture. For wildlife, especially song birds, butterflies, hedgehogs, and more, grass is essential'

‘Living grass lawns help to sustain soil health and retain moisture. For wildlife, especially song birds, butterflies, hedgehogs, and more, grass is essential’

When the grass has begun to recover, mow with the blades set a little higher than usual for the first two cuts.

If you planned to lay turf or seed a new lawn this summer, leave that until significant rains have fallen.

I was appalled to read the other day that one in ten respondents to a survey by the insurance company Aviva had replaced their natural lawn with fake ‘grass’ made out of plastic. Not only that, but some manufacturers of this vile scourge have estimated that around eight million square metres of artificial grass are sold in the UK each year — the equivalent of about 2,000 football pitches.

Your dead-looking lawn may tempt you to have an artificial turf carpet laid but this is a really bad idea.

Living grass lawns help to sustain soil health and retain moisture. For wildlife, especially song birds, butterflies, hedgehogs, and more, grass is essential.

Lawns and the soil beneath them are rich with valuable invertebrates, too. These sustain other wildlife.

If I had my way, fake lawns would be outlawed!

South of France is ravaged by ‘extremely violent’ wildfires as Europe suffers through record two-month drought and temperatures hit 100F

A wildfire that destroyed thousands of acres of tinder-dry forest in southwest France has flared again amid a fierce drought and the summer’s latest heat wave, officials said Wednesday.

Since Tuesday, the so-called Landiras blaze has burned 15,000 acres of pine forest and forced the evacuation of almost 6,000 people in an area already hit last month by huge blazes. No one has been injured in the coastal area that draws huge summer tourism crowds, but 16 houses were destroyed near the village of Belin-Beliet.

‘The fire is extremely violent and has spread to the Landes department’ further south, home of the Landes de Gascogne regional park, the prefecture said in a statement. Local authorities of the wine-growing Gironde department said 500 firefighters were mobilised.

The prefecture warned the fire was spreading toward the A63 motorway, a major artery linking Bordeaux to Spain.

Speed limits on the highway have been lowered to 55 mph in case smoke starts to limit visibility, and a full closure could be ordered if the fire worsens and continues to spread.

The Landiras fire that ignited in July was the largest of several that have raged this year in southwest France, which like the rest of Europe has been buffeted by record drought and a series of heat waves over the past two months.

Arsonists set some of the fires and officials initially suspected a criminal origin for the Landiras blaze. Police later released a suspect for lack of evidence. 

Gironde official Martin Guespereau announced today the region would be cracking down on arsonists. ‘It’s about deterring them and catching them. We have the pressure of the weather, we don’t need the pressure of the arsonists,’ he said.

FRANCE: A wildfire that destroyed thousands of acres of tinder-dry forest in southwest France has flared again amid a fierce drought and the summer's latest heat wave, officials said Wednesday. Pictured: The front of a wildfire is seen in Saint Magne, in the Gironde region of southwestern France, on Tuesday. A small village is seen in the foreground as the smoke rises

FRANCE: A wildfire that destroyed thousands of acres of tinder-dry forest in southwest France has flared again amid a fierce drought and the summer’s latest heat wave, officials said Wednesday. Pictured: The front of a wildfire is seen in Saint Magne, in the Gironde region of southwestern France, on Tuesday. A small village is seen in the foreground as the smoke rises

Since Tuesday, the so-called Landiras blaze has burned 15,000 acres of pine forest and forced the evacuation of almost 6,000 people in an area already hit last month by huge blazes. No one has been injured in the coastal area that draws huge summer tourism crowds, but 16 houses were destroyed near the village of Belin-Beliet

Since Tuesday, the so-called Landiras blaze has burned 15,000 acres of pine forest and forced the evacuation of almost 6,000 people in an area already hit last month by huge blazes. No one has been injured in the coastal area that draws huge summer tourism crowds, but 16 houses were destroyed near the village of Belin-Beliet

Pictured: Smoke rises from a forest fire near the town of Romeyer in the Diois massif located in the Drôme department and at the foot of the Vercors massif, Tuesday

Pictured: Smoke rises from a forest fire near the town of Romeyer in the Diois massif located in the Drôme department and at the foot of the Vercors massif, Tuesday

Pictured: A firefighting plane sprays fire retardant chemicals over a forest in France as smoke rises into the air

Pictured: A firefighting plane sprays fire retardant chemicals over a forest in France as smoke rises into the air

 

Fires were also raging on Tuesday in other parts of the country.

One broke out in the southern departments of Lozere and Aveyron, where close to 600 hectares have already burnt and where Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin is due to go later in the day.

Another fire is in the Maine et Loire department in western France, where 1,600 acres have been scorched and 500 are threatened, according to local authorities.

The high temperatures are not helping firefighters battling another wildfire in the Chartreuse Mountains, near the Alps in eastern France, where authorities have evacuated around 140 people. Three firefighters working to tackle the blaze were reportedly injured.

The regional firefighting coordination centre said it suspects arsonists are behind some of the ‘unlikely flare-ups’ of the blaze. 

The Gironde in southwestern France was hit in July by two wildfires which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and led to the evacuation of almost 40,000 people.  

Elsewhere in Europe, a wildfire broke out Tuesday in dunes in the southern Dutch coastal province of Zeeland, forcing the evacuation of a vacation park, emergency services said.

The air force sent a helicopter to help firefighters tackle the blaze that started amid a long, dry summer that has caused a drought in the Netherlands. Searing temperatures and lack of rainfall have contributed to wildfires in many parts of Europe over the summer.

There were no reports of any injuries but authorities said the main coastal road was closed in the province that is packed with tourists throughout the summer.

Holidaymakers evacuated from the vacation park were advised to go to a nearby sports hall.

THE NETHERLANDS: A photograph shows the aftermath of a wildfire in the dune area near Brouwersdam in Ouddorp, The Netherlands on August 10, 2022, one day after a large wildfire raged through the area

THE NETHERLANDS: A photograph shows the aftermath of a wildfire in the dune area near Brouwersdam in Ouddorp, The Netherlands on August 10, 2022, one day after a large wildfire raged through the area

Pictured: Blackened earth is seen from above in The Netherlands after a wildfire spread through near the Brouwersdam area

Pictured: Blackened earth is seen from above in The Netherlands after a wildfire spread through near the Brouwersdam area

There were no reports of any injuries in wildfire in The Netherlands, but authorities said the main coastal road was closed in the province that is packed with tourists throughout the summer

There were no reports of any injuries in wildfire in The Netherlands, but authorities said the main coastal road was closed in the province that is packed with tourists throughout the summer

France is in the midst of its fourth heatwave of the year as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record. 

National weather agency Meteo France said the heatwave began in the south and is expected to spread across the country and last until the weekend. The southern half of France expects daytime temperatures of up to 40C and they will not drop below 20C during the night.

Meteo France said this week’s heatwave will not be as intense as the one last month when several regions experienced record-breaking temperatures.

But the high temperatures come during the most severe drought ever recorded, according to the government. Last month was the driest July since measurements began in 1959.

Some farmers have started to see drops in production especially in soy, sunflower and corn yields. 

FRANCE: A firefighter sprays a hose as a fire burns in a forest near homes in Clefs-Val-D'Anjou, near La Fleche, western France on August 9, 2022. France is in the midst of its fourth heatwave of the year as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record - making fighting fires more challenging

FRANCE: A firefighter sprays a hose as a fire burns in a forest near homes in Clefs-Val-D’Anjou, near La Fleche, western France on August 9, 2022. France is in the midst of its fourth heatwave of the year as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record – making fighting fires more challenging

A firefighter walks in front of trees in flame during a wildfire in Boyne, southern France, in the 'Grands Causses natural park'

A firefighter walks in front of trees in flame during a wildfire in Boyne, southern France, in the ‘Grands Causses natural park’

A firefighter stands by trees in flame during a wildfire in Boyne, southern France, in the "Grands Causses natural park"

A firefighter stands by trees in flame during a wildfire in Boyne, southern France, in the ‘Grands Causses natural park’

A water bomber helicopter is mobilized against a major forest fire that broke out near the town of Romeyer in the Diois massif located in the Drôme department and at the foot of the Vercors massif, on Tuesday

A water bomber helicopter is mobilized against a major forest fire that broke out near the town of Romeyer in the Diois massif located in the Drôme department and at the foot of the Vercors massif, on Tuesday

A canadair firefighting plane drops water at a wildfire in Boyne, southern France, in the "Grands Causses natural park"

A canadair firefighting plane drops water at a wildfire in Boyne, southern France, in the ‘Grands Causses natural park’

Pictured: Flames are seen ripping through trees next to a road connecting Le Massegros and Boyne, southern France, on August 9, 2022, as a wildfire spreads through the Grands Causses natural park

Pictured: Flames are seen ripping through trees next to a road connecting Le Massegros and Boyne, southern France, on August 9, 2022, as a wildfire spreads through the Grands Causses natural park

Pictured: A firefighter pulls a hose through burnt woodland in France's Grands Causses natural park on Tuesday

Pictured: A firefighter pulls a hose through burnt woodland in France’s Grands Causses natural park on Tuesday

Water restrictions range from daytime irrigation bans to limiting water usage to people, livestock and to keep aquatic species alive.

The government said last week that more than 100 municipalities could not provide drinking water through taps and needed water truck supplies.

The heat also forced energy giant EDF to temporarily cut power generation at some of its nuclear plants which use river water to cool reactors.

Water levels in rivers, lakes and reservoirs across western Europe are running low, or even dry, amid the severest drought in decades which is putting stress on drinking water supplies, hampering river freight and tourism and threatening crop yields.

France’s Doubs river should coarse through a forested canyon and cascade over waterfalls before spilling out into Brenets Lake, a draw for tourists in eastern France’s Jura region. But after months without meaningful rain, the river water has receded up the canyon and sluggishly reaches the lake in a narrow channel.

Pictured: A water dropping helicopter flies past a huge wall of smoke rising from a forest in southern France

Pictured: A water dropping helicopter flies past a huge wall of smoke rising from a forest in southern France

Pictured: A firefighter stands in the middle of a road holding a hosepipe as smoke billows around him in France, Tuesday

Pictured: A firefighter stands in the middle of a road holding a hosepipe as smoke billows around him in France, Tuesday

Pictured: A child's playhouse is seen in a garden, while flames rage in the woods behind it in France on Tuesday

Pictured: A child’s playhouse is seen in a garden, while flames rage in the woods behind it in France on Tuesday

Meanwhile, Spain’s national weather agency said the country has never had a month as hot as July in more than six decades. For the first time since records started in 1961, July registered an average temperature of 25.6C – 2.7C above the recorded average for any previous July.

The southern Andalusian town of Moron de la Frontera posted the highest temperature of the month with 46C on July 24. The north-west Galicia region posted a record 44C (111 F) in Ourense city.

The extreme heat and lack of rain has caused many wildfires and worsened drought in many areas.

The European Forest Fire Information System says 2022 has been the worst year so far in terms of scorched territory and the number of fires for Spain. The agency said 240,000 hectares have been razed by more than 370 fires.

Portugal’s weather service also said July was the hottest since national records began in 1931. The average temperature was 25.1C, almost 3C higher than the expected monthly average.

Britain’s weather service on Tuesday issued an amber ‘Extreme Heat’ warning for parts of England and Wales, with no respite in sight from hot dry conditions that have sparked fires, broken temperature records and strained the nation’s infrastructure. 

A fire-fighting plane floes above smoke arising from burning vegetation in Mostuejouls, on August 9, 2022

A fire-fighting plane floes above smoke arising from burning vegetation in Mostuejouls, on August 9, 2022

Pictured: Flames and smoke rise from dry woodland in in Saint Magne, in the Gironde region of southwestern France, Tuesday

Pictured: Flames and smoke rise from dry woodland in in Saint Magne, in the Gironde region of southwestern France, Tuesday

Pictured: A firefighting vehicle drives up a smoke-covered road in southwestern France on Tuesday

Pictured: A firefighting vehicle drives up a smoke-covered road in southwestern France on Tuesday

Pictured: Firefighting vehicles drive through the smoke in southwestern France on Tuesday

Pictured: Firefighting vehicles drive through the smoke in southwestern France on Tuesday 

Conditions for rivers have deteriorated across Europe as multiple heatwaves roll across the continent.

In Germany, cargo vessels cannot sail fully loaded along the Rhine, a major artery for freight, and along Italy’s longest river, the Po, large sandbanks now bake in the sun as water levels recede sharply. 

In July, Italy declared a state of emergency for areas surrounding the Po, which accounts for more than a third of the country’s agricultural production.

In Spain, farmers in the south fear a harsh drought may reduce olive oil output by nearly a third in the world’s largest producer. In France, which like Spain has had to contend with recent wildfires, trucks are delivering water to dozens of villages without water. 

On the Doubs River, fewer boat tourists means fewer meals to serve for restaurateur Christophe Vallier – a painful blow just as he hoped to recover from the COVID-19 downturn. And he sees little cause for hope in the future.

‘All the Doubs experts say the river is getting drier and drier,’ Vallier lamented.

Experts blame climate change for the soaring temperatures in Europe – and warned that worse is yet to come. 

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