5 Apr 2012

Hosepipe ban comes into effect as drought lingers on

A hosepipe has come into effect for millions of householders in areas across southern and eastern England which remain in drought.

Drought graphic.

Seven water companies are introducing restrictions on water use following one of the driest two-year periods on record, with customers facing a £1,000 fine if they use their hosepipe.

About 20m people will be affected by the restrictions imposed by Thames Water, Southern Water, South East Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East.

Customers will no longer be able use their hosepipes for watering their gardens, washing cars or boats, hosing down patios and paths and filling swimming pools, ponds, fountains and paddling pools. Public parks and allotments will also be hit.

The firms say they are necessary to preserve essential water supplies and protect the environment, in the face of drought which has left groundwater below 1976 levels in some places and rivers running dry.

The Environment Agency said most reservoirs were now below normal levels and river flows were decreasing. All rivers are experiencing lower than normal flows, with two-thirds “exceptionally” low.

The agency called for businesses, as well as householders, to save water, warning hosepipe bans for residents were effective, but would not solve the entire problem.

Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the government agency, said: “While households have a very important role to play in helping to cut water use during the current drought, businesses, farmers and water companies must all play their part too, by using water wisely to ensure that the water that we do have goes further.

“Being water efficient makes good business sense, and can help businesses save money.

“It will also ensure that there is enough water to produce food, products and services, and in the environment for wildlife.”

What am I not allowed to use a hosepipe for?
Watering a garden
Filling a swimming or paddling pool
Cleaning a private leisure boat
Watering plants
Cleaning a car or other vehicle
Cleaning your walls, patio, garden furniture or the area around your house
Filling an ornamental fountain
Filling up a pond, unless it is home to fish

What can I use instead?
Buckets of water, filled from the tap or with recycled water, can be used to clean the car or other household tasks.
Similarly a watering filled from the tap can still be used to water the garden.

Are there any exceptions?
If you are disabled, you are still permitted to use a hosepipe
If your hosepipe uses recycled water and you have a drip irrigation system to water your garden
Filling a birthing pool
Cleaning graffiti off a building
Watering plants if they are for sale or display
Filling a water tank on a canal boat or caravan


There are some exemptions to the ban, and loopholes.

People can use recycled bath water for use in the garden and irrigation systems – so long as they are metered, have a timing device and drip onto or under the soil.

Buckets of water, filled directly from the tap, are permitted for use in the garden and those customers who are registered disabled can continue to use hosepipes, provided they are holding the hose.

Peter Simpson, managing director of Anglian Water, said: “Two dry winters have prevented rivers, reservoirs and aquifers from refilling with the water we treat and supply the rest of the year, especially during the hotter months when demand rises.”

Martin Baggs, chief executive of Thames Water, said: “Imposing restrictions on the use of hosepipes, although regrettable, is the most sensible and responsible next step in encouraging everyone to use less water so we can maintain supplies for as long as it stays dry, and reduce the risk of more serious restrictions later in the year.”

Time to prepare for more droughts

Southern Water estimated that the hosepipe ban would reduce water demand by around 5 per cent while Thames Water said its last ban in 2006 reduced demand by 10 per cent.

Mike Hegarty, Sutton and East Surrey Water’s operations director, said: “We have said from the outset that we very much regret having to impose this bar but this drought is becoming increasingly serious.

“We have no choice if we are to protect our customers by ensuring the long-term security of their water supply.”

He warned that the drought could continue, saying: “We must be mindful of the possibility – albeit unprecedented – of a third dry winter.”