Canal boat enthusiasts hoping to attend one of the biggest waterways festivals in the country may be forced to stay at home due to drought.

Rickmansworth Festival takes place on May 19 and 20, and attracts hundreds of barges and narrow boats to a weekend of music and entertainment.

David Montague, festival director, said that despite recent heavy rainfall, restrictions put in place to conserve water may prevent some boats from coming.

He said: "British Waterways took appropriate steps during the winter to close some parts of the canal system, including the Grand Union Summit level at Tring, to conserve water and allow the reservoirs that feed the system to replenish as they were at record low levels.

"Their plan was to allow for sufficient water to accumulate to allow navigation in the peak late spring and summer months.

"These restrictions have now been mostly lifted and so people can navigate to the Festival. So water levels are lower than usual but we still hope all the boats that want to attend can do so."

At the beginning of April people across Hertfordshire were told they would no longer be allowed to use their hosepipe to water the garden, clean a private car or leisure boat, or to fill or maintain a swimming pool, pond or ornamental fountain, or face a £1,000 fine.

Local water company Veolia Water claims there has been less than 60 per cent of the average rainfall in autumn and winter, as well as low rainfall the previous year.

As a result, part of the River Chess, which runs through Rickmansworth, has completely dried up.

Paul Jennings, chairman of The River Chess Association, said: "If anything good comes out of this drought it will be the realisation that simply taking water out of the ground to satisfy ever increasing demand is no longer sustainable without causing permanent damage to the environment."

Similar water use restrictions have also been put in place by six other water companies across the south and east of the country.