Hosepipe bans brought in for drought-hit areas

A hosepipe being used The introduction of the bans follows the fifth driest March since records began in 1910

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Hosepipe bans affecting about 20 million customers have been introduced by seven water authorities in parts of southern and eastern England.

People who flout the bans, which follow one of the driest two-year periods on record, face fines of up to £1,000.

Suppliers Thames, Southern, South East, Anglian, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East have all introduced "temporary use bans".

The government has urged householders to be "smarter about how we use water".

Using a hosepipe to water a garden, water plants, fill a pond not containing fish, or clean outdoor surfaces are all banned as are filling and maintaining ornamental fountains.

But exemptions are in place for grass and surfaces used for national and international sports which means the Olympic and Paralympic games will be unaffected.

Disabled people with blue badges are exempt, while some businesses, including car washing firms, will also be allowed to continue using hosepipes in most areas.

And some drip irrigation systems featuring perforated hoses are allowed.

Tips for saving water

  • Use dishwashers and washing machines only when they are full
  • Use bathwater and washing-up water to wash the car and the garden
  • Save the cold water that comes through before a tap runs hot, and use it to water plants
  • Keep a jug of water in the fridge instead of waiting for the tap to run cold
  • Turn off the taps when you're brushing your teeth or shaving
  • Install a water-saving device in the toilet
  • Grow your grass a little longer. It will stay greener than a close-mown lawn and need less watering

Source: Directgov

Water companies say they have no option but to put the bans in place to preserve essential water supplies but say they also need their customers to help cut down on their usage.

Most of the suppliers expect the ban to last all summer.

Anglian Water managing director Peter Simpson 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."

Sutton and East Surrey operations manager Mike Hegarty, meanwhile, warned there was no end in sight to the situation.

"We have said from the outset that we very much regret having to impose this bar but this drought is becoming increasingly serious."

He added: "We have no choice if we are to protect our customers by ensuring the long-term security of their water supply."

Leaking pipes

Thames Water sustainability director Richard Aylard said the ban could extend into the autumn "unless we have an unusually wet year".

He also said the company's leakage rates were not "obscene" but were high.


After months without rain the fields at Farley Farms, near Reading in Berkshire, are bone dry.

You can literally crumble a handful of soil into dust in your hand.

They are desperate for rain and already having to make contingency plans to feed the dairy cows because lack of rain is stunting the growth of grass.

Half a mile up the road, at the Henry Street garden centre, they've already sold out of water butts and watering cans are pouring off the shelves.

Drought-resistant plants are now flavour of the month, as gardeners face the reality of life without hosepipes.

Val Taylor, from the Caversham Horticultural Society, has already started using her bathwater in the garden and she says the hosepipe ban could signal the end for the archetypal water-hungry lawn.

He said this was "partly a consequence of very old pipes - 20% of London's water pipes are over 150 years old".

Mr Aylard added: "With this ban we would expect to see up to 150 million litres of water a day saved. To get the same saving from replacing leaky pipes would cost £1.2bn and take 10 years, so we have to be practical about this."

Karen Gibbs, from the Consumer Council for Water, says that with providers losing billions of litres of water every day, consumers may feel the ban is unfair.

"That's obviously a perception that can affect the way people respond to these calls for water saving," she said.

"The companies should be aiming to exceed their leakage targets and when there's a drought on it's really important that they're being seen to be really stepping up their effort on leakage, so that customers can see that they are doing everything they can."

Drought areas

BBC Weather's Laura Tobin has more on the weather conditions that have caused the drought in the UK.

Householders are being urged by the companies and the government to cut their water use with measures including taking shorter showers and washing fruit and vegetables in a bowl rather than under the tap.

Southern Water's strategy manager Paul Kent said he was optimistic about people taking the ban seriously.

"We're not going to go trawling the streets, looking for people abusing the hosepipe ban. We have found from our last hosepipe ban seven years ago, that people do have a social conscience.

"Undoubtedly we will get customers that are phoning in and telling us of customers that are using hosepipes. We will contact those customers in a sensible fashion and remind them of the hosepipe ban that is in place."

In some areas, drought has left groundwater below levels in the 1976 crisis when household supplies were cut off and standpipes used.

The introduction of the bans follows the third-warmest March - and fifth driest - since records began in 1910.

Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and west Norfolk have been in drought since last summer.

Much of south-east England, including London, is also affected and parts of North, South and East Yorkshire have become the latest to be declared as officially in drought by the Environment Agency.

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

Jeremy Cook takes a look around Thames Water's desalination plant at Beckton


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  • rate this

    Comment number 839.

    I just checked and found the water sompany that I pay is the top of the chart for bad leakages. Not surprising really. They allowed a leak in our cul de sac to run unfixed for nearly 4 months at one point recently. It got so bad the water was being used by birds as a free bath, and the road has been worn away along the gutter due to constant erosion by the water that we have paid for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    Everyones going on about hosepipe bans, approx 5% savings, others say don't run the water when brushing your teeth. What really needs to be addressed is how much water is wasted when waiting for the combi boilers that is in every home in the country. Aprox 30-45 seconds of constant water needs to be run before sufficient hot temperature is reached. Times that by every home and that's wastage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    The water companies allow for average rainfall & average demand. During the last major draught there was call for action, fewer leaks & more resevoirs. The water companies just sat it out & unsuprisingly eventually (when I went on holiday) it rained. The water companies have no contingency for extremes, either draughts or floods & just procrastinate. They should be fined for failure to supply.

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    I thought all the privatisation were going to be in everyones interest ? Yet another lie from the powers that be,

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    Sheeple please continue to mark me down all you like, but do you really think basic property rights should be suspended so we can claim back the water pipes? Do you not realise the implication of the suspension of basic property rights to yourself?


    I suggest you think about the implications of what you're asking or you may pay the price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    "All public utilities, water, electricity, gas e.t.c. and the public transport should be run for the public and the states good. I would have the whole lot re-nationalised"
    Oh dear here we go again. It's never that clear cut. The old state-owned water agencies were as much (if not more so) responsible for the chronic lack of investment in new supply pipes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    There are at least 2 issues here.
    1. We're running out of water - who's happy to let post 987 hose-pipe his petunias while we die of thirst?
    2. We might well be able to use our resources better - unfortunately, the fairies don't have wands to lay pipe-lines, construct reservoirs, build desalination plants - they take time; meanwhile, we could act responsibly or we could whinge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    People respond to incentives so how about the Govt. takes as additional tax from water company dividends the same percentage they loose in leaks. I hear that’s about 25% for Thames Water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    Fred Bloggs #820 YES
    YES I do remember when we had water authorities, and YES the bills were cheaper, we didn't have to pay shareholders (9% of Thames Water now in Chineese ownership), profits were either used by the Govt. or used to improve water supplies which obviously foreign owned companies do not want!

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    When the South can export some of it's sunshine (and wealth) to the North then we might consider sending some of our water, which we have paid heavily for over recent decades in infrastructure upgrades etc. Stop whining - it just means you can't continue to sprinkle your gardens - GET OVER IT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.


    Thanks for the clarification.

    I just find it repugnant that the people can be fined for using something they have already paid for, whilst the companies profiteer from & mismanage the resources - yet are NOT held accountable.

    But it seems that people are happy with the way this is set up.

    Highly irregular if you ask me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    #803 Max
    Bit rich that, coming from someone who supported the leaks are ok water table replenishment clot."
    I was able to provide evidence to back up my comment.

    And you?
    Maxy, much as I admire your capacity for reasoned objective debate,
    on this isolated occasion your logic has proved impenetrable.
    Perhaps you could provide some context for your "evidence" to explain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    The irony is that Cranwell in Lincolnshire, in the Anglia water region, had 1.75 inches of rain yesterday. This was, however, the wettest day in England for about a month.

    People blaming the water companies or government are ignoring the fact that England hasn't had some serious rain for quite some time...

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    desalination is TOO dear/doe?Arm and a LEG,NHS style.Lazy on :;]

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    If they can pipe gas and oil from the North Sea, I'm sure they can do just the same with water from Wales or Scotland or the North of England.

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    'Some of the water saving advice I've seen is brilliant for instance flushing the loo 'If it's yellow stay mellow (don't flush) If it's brown flush it down' Now that's fine unless you are colour blind which could lead to a very messy ending'

    Although colour blind, let me reassure you that I'm fully aware as to whether I've done a No.1 or 2 without the need to look ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    Those climate change deniers are awfully quiet.

    @ 817.Anglerfish: you are funny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    I also live on the Isle of Wight
    You say about saving water of which we do on the Island as we have had water meters for several years now so we can't save any more than we are doing now.
    but I do reckon that we will have a ban soon as the Island population must double in the next few months as this is a holiday Island.

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    @govt gonna get a serious kicking: The private company is not fining people. The gov may prosecute via the Water Use (Temporary Bans) Order 2010, prepared under the authority of the parent Water Industry Act 1991 s.36. The Act itself has democratic legitimacy through being passed by a House elected by the people.

    That's the law school theory. In practice, rich men want more money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.


    So you want the taxpayer to stump up billions to buy back the services from the companies who now own them (Please don't make the mistake of thinking we can just _take_ them back, much sewage would occur) - and then we'd have to continue to pay the bills, or do you imagine the bills would get cheaper under public ownership?

    Do you actually remember before these were privatised?


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