Warnings are in place over the health impacts of extreme heat and the risk of wildfires, as temperatures are expected to climb as high as 36C in some areas.
The National Drought Group – made up of Government and agency officials, water companies and other groups such as the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) – is set to meet on Friday to discuss the prolonged dry weather.
There are expectations drought could be declared for the most affected areas of England in the south and east, after the driest July on record for some areas and the driest first half of the year since 1976.
The ongoing dry conditions, combined with last month’s record-breaking heatwave, have depleted rivers, reservoirs and aquifers and dried up soils, hitting agriculture, water supplies and wildlife and raising the risk of wildfires.
Declaring drought will see the Environment Agency and water companies implementing more of their plans to manage the impacts of low water levels, which can include actions such as hosepipe bans.
Four water companies in England and Wales have already brought in hosepipe bans or have signalled their intention to do so, while the Wildlife Trusts have called for an England-wide hosepipe ban to protect nature and rivers.
Meanwhile, a four-day amber warning for extreme heat from the Met Office is in place for much of England and Wales until Sunday, with warnings of health impacts and disruption to travel.
There is also a heat health alert in place from the UK Health Security Agency, with experts advising people to look out for those who are older or with existing health conditions, as well as young children.
Temperatures reached 34.2C at Wiggonholt, West Sussex, on Thursday afternoon, and climbed above 33C in a number of places from Shropshire to the south east of England.
Heatwave thresholds – which are met at different temperatures in different parts of the country – are likely to be hit in much of the UK.
Met Office chief meteorologist Andy Page said: “Persistent high pressure over the UK means temperatures have been rising day-on-day through this week and it is important people plan for the heat.
“Temperatures are expected to peak at 35C on Friday and possibly 36C over the weekend.
He said temperatures would drop early next week, with heavy showers and thunderstorms likely in some areas.
Temperatures in Scotland are expected to continue rising over the weekend and early into next week.