Hosepipe ban to be imposed in drought-hit parts of UK

A hosepipe being used The bans may prohibit people from washing cars, watering gardens and filling swimming pools

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Water companies across southern and eastern England are to introduce hosepipe bans amid drought conditions.

Seven firms say they will impose water restrictions after two unusually dry winters left reservoirs, aquifers and rivers below normal levels.

Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East are to enforce restrictions.

All seven companies said they will impose bans from 5 April.

The drought-affected areas are the south-east of England and East Anglia.

But the Environment Agency (EA) warns in a new report that the drought could spread as far north as East Yorkshire and as far west as the Hampshire-Wiltshire border, if the dry weather continues this spring.

The EA warns that drought conditions are expected to spread across more of England in coming weeks, unless strong rains arrive.

It will also warn of effects on agriculture that could raise prices of potatoes and other vegetables.

Tips to save water

  • Take shorter showers
  • Fix dripping taps
  • Install a water saving device in your toilet
  • Turn off taps while you brush your teeth

It says plans are in place to ensure that the Olympic Games will not be adversely affected, by using water from "sustainable supplies".

"The Olympic Park and other Olympic venues have a high level of resilience to meet their needs even during a drought," says the Agency.

It also added: "The Queen's Diamond Jubilee pageant at the beginning of June will not be affected by the drought."

A ban on hosepipes means they cannot be used on gardens, plants, cars or boats for "recreational use"; to fill or maintain ponds, pools or fountains; and to clean paths, walls, windows or other artificial outdoor surfaces.

People in breach of these terms risk being prosecuted and fined up to £1,000. Watering cans and buckets are still allowed.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said the temporary restrictions would "help protect the public's water supply in the areas most affected by the record low levels of rainfall we have experienced over the last 17 months".

She said: "We can all help reduce the effects of drought by respecting these restrictions and being smarter about how we use water.

Parts of the UK affected by drought

"Taking action now to reduce how much water we use will help us all in the future."

News of the hosepipe bans has coincided with warm weather in much of the UK, although the drought conditions are a consequence of successive dry winters.

BBC Weather meteorologist Nick Miller said: "This prolonged spell of mild or very mild weather that we've seen since mid-February with temperatures rising as high as 19C isn't helping the issue, nor of course is the current dry spell.

"The required sustained period of rainfall for the worse affected areas simply isn't in the immediate forecast."

Meanwhile, the area formally in drought is expected to extend beyond south-eastern counties, with parts of Yorkshire likely to be named as officially in drought.

Counties that have received much less rainfall in recent months also include Shropshire and Somerset.

The National Farmers Union has warned of the impact on both arable and livestock farming, and is asking for restrictions on agricultural water use to be avoided wherever possible.

  • SEW - South East Water
  • SES - Sutton and East Surrey
  • VEC - Veolia Central
  • VSE - Veolia South East

Farmers have reportedly planted 80% of the area they usually fill with crops, and are expecting lower than average yields.

But conservation groups point out that if farmers, householders or businesses take more water from rivers and lakes that are already poorly supplied, wildlife will feel the effects.

The Environment Agency is issuing a wide range of advice. It says:

  • Farmers should look for ways to share water resources by setting up water abstractor groups and to take steps now to improve water efficiency
  • Farmers should top up their storage reservoirs, to ensure there are better supplies for the summer months
  • It has introduced a fast-track process for farmers to apply to take additional water when river flows are high.

Reservoirs such as Bewl Bridge in Kent are below half of their normal level for the time of year.

Heavy rains could yet stave off the worst of the impacts, but forecasters are predicting drier than average conditions for the next few months.

In the worst case, this could lead to emergency measures such as supplies being limited to public standpipes in the street being implemented, as was the case during the 1976 drought.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    I bet there's never a ban on dividends for shareholders and returns of capital

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    Why do I have to pay water rates when I can't use water.? This must be one of the few businesses that charge you in advance for something then tell you you can't have it but you won't get your money back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.


    Germany's healthcare system is not private though it uses an insurance system AOK being the biggest state health insurance entity. the French have a national health system too so as well as a private one running along side for those willing to pay for it

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    817. Entropic man, should be economic man.

    New reservoirs, canals or pipelines have a huge negative environmental impact. If we want a long term solution, we should invest money into creating new desalination membranes. The costs would go down rapidly over time. You can export technology, but you can't export canals or pipelines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    Re: Post 817 Entropic man: "... Tell your water company how much you are prepared to pay for water and they will provide security of supply to match."

    And cream off a tidy profit for themselves whilst they're at it, don't forget!

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    building desalination plants to lower the sea level (jasonessex #779)? good idea - right up to the point where you figure out where the water would end up when you have finished using it! Ever noticed how rivers flow downhill to the sea?

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    822 - Its March. Not August.

    Try persuading any of the foreign owned utilities to invest in the future despite the massive and growing gouges they take out of your pocket every year.

    And reflect on the benefits of privatisation.

    Not for the consumer, obviously - but then that was never the intention.

    Next - the police, the army, the NHS.

    Parliament was privatised by the CoL thirty years ago

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    In the south east the majority of the water we use is groundwater, which accumulates over many months and years. A week of rain will top up our rivers and reservoirs but the groundwater will be relatively unchanged.

    We take it for granted that we can turn on a tap and receive water. The actions that people take now in March, will help ease the stress in the more critical period during the summer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    So to the Scots and Northerners etc if you will only 'sell' your excess water to us 'Southerners' we should not be expected to bail you out when you get too much of the wet stuff and end up with floods. You reap what you sow!! You got more flooding than we did droughts in the last century, selfish attitude as uasual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    812 skeerbs
    Hey my friend. England will be getting a lot more free from scotland if they get their independence. The english will be able to go to scotland and get free university education. EU law. Can't wait for all the northern english to run across the border and you can't stop it! You can now because we are one country, you won't be able to in the future - free movement in the EU laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    So why when you visit the Greek islands they have more water than you can shake a stick at and it never rains? The rivers around me in Southern Lincolnshire are full to bursting, The water board has hiked the price again and looks like they will be doing so next year too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    "It's Scotland's water!" Big Eck's new rallying call?

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    Re 821.killerdalek
    I don't think the Scotts are likely to be short of water any time soon (I have been to Scotland on a camping holiday)
    Also your two way example can't possibly work because it's uphill to Scotland from England (check the map).

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    # 821.... Er, have you ever been to Scotland? Do you know how much rain we get?And how many huge freshwater lochs we have? A water shortage is about the last thing that would happen there.! A precious commodity.... water is the oil of the future!

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    Ironically, there appears to be only one supplier per region. So much for privatisation creating equilibrium via competition! The companies have no incentive to invest because when there are are shortages they can lobby government for investment and then raise prices. Capitalism is failing us left, right and centre.

    I just realised.... my statements above could also be about the rail companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.


    The prices and explanation of those prices you quote are rediculous. They do not in anyway take into consideration the nature of the industry, the capabilities of those in the industry, or relationships with customers, suppliers or governments. Tell your water company to improve its capabilities, its internal processes, its relationships and pass those none opposite savings to consumers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    ref comment #795 - when water was still publicly owned in 1976, the drought passed off unnoticed - those standpipes must have been a collective hallucination....

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    Re: Post 812 by Skeerbs: "...the offer has been made for Scotland to sell England some water... ...And they wonder why Scotland is considering independence. England, always wanting something for nothing."

    A pipeline is a two-way system: Scots would benefit when they are short of water, so it's not something for nothing at all! I'm beginning to think that WE should impose independence on YOU!

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    626. Free Willy: just to clear up, water companies can't charge what they want. Every five years they have to provide OFWAT a business plan and they say aye or nay. unlike gas or electricity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    It was decided when the water companies were sold off that there was no social need when it comes to water, the market should decide and Capitalism is best. Well they have taken the profits, rewarded the share holders & now they tell us they haven't got enough water. We pay through the nose for it, it is their problem. If they can't supply I suggest we buy our water from the Rep of Ireland


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