United Utilities today confirmed a hosepipe ban will come into force on Friday following "the driest start to a year since records began".
It will be the first hosepipe ban in the North West for 14 years.
The ban will apply to all UU customers in the North West, with the exception of customers in Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland and the north Eden Valley, where supplies are at reasonable levels.
United Utilities loses 460m litres a day through bursts and inefficiencies but the company said this has been halved since privatisation in 1989 and is within targets set by the regulator Ofwat.
John Sanders, United Utilities' water regulation and strategy manager, said: "Despite some recent rainfall in the north of the region, reservoir levels are still significantly lower than we would expect at this time of year and are now at a point where we need to impose some temporary restrictions on our customers.
"It is not a decision we have taken lightly, but a hosepipe can use as much water in an hour as a family of four would use in one day. This ban will help us to safeguard essential water supplies to our customers if the drought continues."
The ban will restrict the use of hosepipes or sprinklers for watering private gardens and washing private cars. Residents can still water your gardens with a watering can and wash your vehicles using a bucket and sponge.