...and other areas, including Southern, South East, Yorkshire, Anglian, Sutton and East Surrey and Pembrokeshire already having bans in place or proposing them, by the end of the month approx. 20 million people (Ofwat figure) could be affected by restrictions.
Through the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 – which extended the scope of and replaced the Water Industry Act 1991 – water companies (undertakers) can introduce Temporary Use Bans (the proper name for a hosepipe ban) if it believes it is or may experience, a serious shortage of water for distribution.
Following the long period of less than average rainfall in several parts of the UK this year, in line with the 2017 “Drought response: our framework for England” the Environment Agency convened the National Drought Group last month (26th July 2022). This was to discuss the current situation and agree on actions to protect water resources, with the group comprising of senior decision-makers from:
- Environment Agency;
- Water companies;
- Water UK;
- The NFU; and
- Environmental protection groups (including the Angling Trust and Rivers Trust).
Once in place, the Temporary Use Ban will mean you cannot use a hosepipe that is connected to the mains water supply – or indeed anything adapted/modified to serve the same purpose as a hose pipe such as garden sprinklers and irrigation systems or pressure washers. In essence, filling or cleaning anything from paddling pools and ponds to cars/private leisure boats and patios, must not be done with a hosepipe. Failure to comply with a Temporary Use Ban, once in force, could result in a fine of up to £1,000.
There are exemptions to the ban and while these will often be the discretion of the water company which include most commercial activities (where any hosepipe use is directly related to the commercial activity) - including car cleaning and vegetable production. Exemptions also exist for unavoidable health and safety reasons (people), welfare and health and safety of animals and people in vulnerable situations such as on a Priority Service Register. There are also other specific circumstances where exemptions may apply, again these are water company dependent and could include:
- Watering new lawns (for up to 28 days from laying and not between 8.00 am and 10.00 am or 5.00 pm and 9.00 pm);
- Filling/maintaining ornamental water features/fountains for religious purposes; and
- Water grass surfaces that are employed for sports/recreation purposes.
In terms of the law, it should also be noted that what constitutes a “serious shortage” of water for distribution is not defined and neither is what length of time “temporary” covers, these are both at the discretion of the water company. However, any water company introducing a temporary ban is obliged to make arrangements for ‘reasonable’ reductions in charges made in relation to the activities covered by the ban.
While businesses are largely outside the Temporary Use Ban it should be remembered that the use of hosepipes is OK for commercial activities where its use is directly related. So, hosing down a path (other than for health and safety purposes if it could not be cleaned another way) could be covered by the ban.
It should though trigger the need to be as effective with our water use as possible. If the period of drought extends and deepens, The Secretary of State does have the power to add “non-domestic” purposes to the Temporary Use Ban and possibly further measures on top of that.