A drought has been officially declared in parts of Wales after a prolonged period of dry weather and low rainfall caused water levels to plummet.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said the threshold for triggering drought status in south-west Wales was reached on Friday.
The decision was made by NRW and the Welsh Government’s Drought Liaison Group after discussing the impact of the prolonged heatwave on the environment, particularly rivers and reservoirs.
The areas affected include North Ceredigion, Teifi, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen, Swansea, Llanelli, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend.
A snake ban has also been implemented in Pembrokeshire and parts of Carmarthenshire due to the strain on public water supplies.
Natalie Hall, from NRW, said: “Prolonged dry weather can lead to drought when rainfall is still low. This can affect some of our most precious habitats and species, as well as systems we often take for granted, such as our water supply.
“We have decided to declare a state of drought in south west Wales after it became clear that the lack of rain and recent heat has put a huge strain on our rivers, reservoirs and groundwater levels.
“While some parts of Wales may experience rain, it can still take a long time to recover from the drought, making water a precious resource.”
The whole region had just 65.5% of average rainfall in July and all river levels are lower than expected for this time of year, with the Ewenny, Teifi and Taf being “exceptionally low”, NRW said.
Water levels are so low that in recent days the remains of the village of Llanwddyn in Powys, which was flooded in the 19th century to create Lake Vyrnwy reservoir and supply water to Liverpool, has resurfaced.
The rest of Wales is also affected by the dry weather, with the country experiencing its driest five-month period in 40 years between March and July.
Last year, Wales used the equivalent of 356 Olympic-sized pools of water every day, and in recent weeks the country’s daily demand has increased by 25%.
Experts have said that any rain that is now expected to be short, intense and unlikely will change the situation significantly, with very wet weather needed through autumn and winter to ensure recovery.