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 918.

    Hold on a sec, I distinctly remember that we were told, that due to Global Warming, we will have REGULAR FLOODING in the UK and the snow will be only seen on TV"

    Can you cite peer reviewed scientific journals for such claims or are your memories based on simplistic headlines with no specific timeframe or location? Making predictions is always difficult. Especially about the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    Living in the NW of Scotland I used to be smug about our unlimited supply of water. But now we have a modern reverse-osmosis water treatment works, we are limited by the capacity of the plant to keep the header tank up the hill topped up., and instead of brown peaty water that has had a slug of chlorine fired into it as it came down the main, we have clean but very expensive clear stuff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    Lots of people saying introduce compulsory water meters, the fact is that doesn't help the situation. I already have a water meter and pay for what i use, if I'm paying for it then I don't see why it should be dictated to me how i use it... its like saying pay for your electric but when its in demand you cant watch TV. Water companies need to sort their equipment and pipe work out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    912 waterwatcher
    And yet even after the major floods NSW is still suffering from a water shortage and hunter valley and other regions are still dry. Some farmers have lost their livelihood. Extracting certain plants erodes topsoil. However you have a 3rd of the population of England which is a 10th(?) of the size.

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    Water company "It's not our problem Guv. If the UK had more rain our leaky pipes and lack of forward planning would not be an issue".

    It sucks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    #899 _NotANumber_

    NO, I got lazy.


  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    I am watching with great interest and sympathy from Australia. We have just come out of a 10 year draught and subsequent severe water usage restrictions. Some worthwhile initiatives now form a normal part of our living. Water saving shower heads, dual flush toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, rainwater tank subsidies for homes, garden underground and dripper irrigation and the list goes on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    That was the secretary for the environment Caroline spelman its uneconomical t5o move water more than 30 miles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    886 theroadtoserfodm
    I think you will find most of the problems in the lakes/seas I mentioned are because of daming/irrigation and draining of the rivers. Pretty much the same for England. And yes, I left Oz in jan of this year. They still have major problems in the wine growing and farming region and the rivers in NSW are still low. Except one farm, who is clever and keeps top soil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    The southest has been developed beyond the capability of the available resources. It is time to shift the investment and development to where the resources are - the west midlands and the northwest of England, Wales and Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    Um, isn't it just a bit mad to increase our population by 400-500,000 each year, as Britain is, when we are in deep trouble with our lack of sufficient rainfall? Our climate is changing and we should adapt to it by moving towards a sustainable population policy. As a bare minimum, we should have immigration levels equal to emigration levels, not an excess of 200-250,000 every year. Absolutely mad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    I believe London water has been through several consumers kidneys
    before being discarded. This means the water companies are selling the same product several times over.
    A fascinating fact which does'nt improve the current situation, but may explain why London water tastes awful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    Hold on a sec, I distinctly remember that we were told, that due to Global Warming, we will have REGULAR FLOODING in the UK and the snow will be only seen on TV.
    So, for the last 3 years the BBC and the Met Office were 100% WRONG.

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    No mention of rainwater harvesting on the main BBC TV news on BBC 1. Where are the incentives for rainwater harvesting? There have been big incentives for solar panels but nothing for rainwater harvesting that could really help conserve treated water by using rain water for toilets washing machines and the garden.

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Unfortunately for us, shareholders and profit come first, investment second. Whatever is required will have to be paid for by consumers in their bills. These money making companies should be obliged to provide an adequate service, which includes providing water storage, using their profits first, not by pushing up bills as has happened in the SWest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    yet again, england seeks an solution to a problem that involves the consumption of resources outwith it's borders. why not put something in the water you still have and start to reduce the population which has outgrown what the country itself can support. it can't go on like this forever you know. one day it will have to stop, even if it's only when there is coast to coast concrete and asphalt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 902.


    I'm certainly not avocating desalination - as a means of producing drinking water it is just extremely expensive. I was commenting on the lunacy of this idea to lower sea levels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    Well I do hope this applies to Windsor Castle not being able to empty and refill a 100,000 lt fountain 4 times a year because the water is cloudy or green or has grass clippings in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    Someone on the TV report said "it is uneconomical to transport water more than 30 miles, because water is heavy" - or words to that effect. What utter rubbish. Where do you find these 'experts'? Once water starts flowing it doesn't matter how long the pipe is. In fact if it starts at a higher altitude than where it ends up it can even produce energy along the way. We call it hydroelectricity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    884. Entropic man

    You didn't read that from here did you?


    If so, comment on why you think it is a reliable source of information.


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