Tens of thousands of homes were left without running water after melting snow and ice caused pipes to burst.
Residents in Kent, Sussex, Hertforshire and Essex have been forced to turn to bottled water as suppliers scramble to restore supplies as households have been without water for more than 24 hours.
South East Water said as many as 15,000 properties saw their water cut due to a 300% increase in the number of burst pipes compared to usual. This included Tunbridge Wells and surrounding areas.
Meanwhile, Southern Water said properties in Kent lacked running water. As many as 20,000 may have been affected.
Affinity Water said 8,000 customers, mainly in Hertfordshire and Essex, had experienced supply disruptions.
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In a 7am update on Tuesday, the water company said: “We are deeply sorry for the distress and inconvenience this incident is causing. Our teams worked through the night to repair the burst water main so that we could return the supply to our customers.
He added, “The repair is now complete, however, it will take time to get water flowing throughout the network and supplies returning.”
The company has previously commented on the underlying cause of the pipe failure: “On a typical winter day we extract, treat and pump an average of 520 million liters of potable water per day for customers.
“In the last 24 hours this has increased by 100 million liters to 620 million. As a result, many of our potable water storage tanks, which hold treated water before it is pumped to customers’ taps, empty or become very empty.
“Although we planned it, we cannot predict when and where the pipes will burst and we are reacting as quickly as possible.”
Residents of Broadstairs, Manston, Margate and Ramsgate awoke Monday morning with no running water, but Southern Water has since said water supplies in these areas are “almost fully restored” after the burst water main was repaired with success.
Thousands of homes in Lancashire also reportedly had their water turned off on Monday due to burst pipes and leaks.
Hilary Wilce, from Benenden in Kent, said she first noticed her water cut off this morning. Though it’s just her and her husband at their home right now, she’s expecting up to 12 guests over the next couple of days for Christmas.
The couple rely on bottled water from the village shop like many others in the area as they wait to hear when their water will be reactivated. According to Ms Wilce, South East Water said it will set up a water station with bottled water if it runs out of water for an extended period.
“Everyone says it’s really exceptional – this terrible cold and then this heat, but this is going to happen again and again because of climate change,” said Mrs Wilce The independent.
“Now we will always have very cold and very hot weather, so they [water companies] they need to invest in a more robust infrastructure or this will happen several times over the winter.”
However, Ms Wilce is no stranger to water shortages as she encountered several during the summer heat wave.
He said: “We often have short water shortages because I think they have to pump out the water. When it was very hot we would leak water for a few hours each evening as there seemed to be not enough water flowing. Then they said it was because it was very hot this summer. Every time it gets a little warmer or a little colder we seem to have problems.”
South East Water said: “We are still working hard to balance fresh water demand with supply after the cold snap.
“Some customers are experiencing intermittent water supplies and we apologize for any disruption this may cause.”
Bottled water stations have opened at a rugby club in Haywards Heath, a golf club in Crowborough and a leisure center in Tonbridge.
Snow and ice they are melting rapidly as the temperature increases after days of UK winter conditions.
Aviva, an insurance company, has urged people to watch out for water leaks as the weather gets warmer and frozen pipes begin to thaw.
A spokesman for Southern Water said on Tuesday: “We are sorry for the distress and inconvenience caused to our customers by the disruption of water supplies to Thanet.”
An RAC spokesman, Rod Dennis, warned that the melting ice could lead to dangerous road conditions: ‘With weather conditions in many places so light that they are almost the exact opposite of last week, drivers leaving for Christmas need to stay on guard.
“The snow and ice are melting rapidly, leading to a lot of splashing on the surface, and in some parts the cold, clear conditions have been replaced by heavy rain and high winds.
“Its vital drivers slow down for conditions, paying particular attention to high and exposed rural routes.”
Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill added: “It’s also worth mentioning that, prior to this, it was obviously very cold, so the grounds were a bit frozen, the drains may have frozen in places.
“As a result, their ability to cope with rainfall may have been reduced, which is why we could see some larger impacts, which is why the warning was raised.”