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Droughts are natural events which occur when a period of low rainfall creates a shortage of water. They reduce water supplies to different users. Droughts can also affect rivers or aquifers, depending on when the lack of rainfall occurs. Some droughts affect a large area of England while others are concentrated in a few catchments.
Water companies have a statutory duty to plan for drought, and their plans include a range of actions to manage the supply and demand of water. The Environment Agency also has a drought response framework which sets out how the agency works with the government, water companies and others to manage water resources during a drought in England. Emergency Drought Orders can be put in place to protect essential water supplies and legislation allows restrictions to be phased in, starting with non-essential water uses such as watering a garden with a hosepipe.