Tue. Aug 16th, 2022

The UK’s first hosepipe ban of the year comes into effect today, after a prolonged dry spell that has depleted reservoir and river levels.

A record-breaking heatwave saw the country record its hottest day ever last month when temperatures soared to 40.2°C in some areas.

During an emergency meeting last month, the National Drought Group, which meets twice a year to assess water resources, moved England into prolonged dry weather status – the stage before a drought.

What areas are affected?

At the end of July, Southern Water announced a hosepipe ban to come into effect from 5pm on 5 August.

Customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight will be affected by the Temporary Use Ban (TUB).

Southern Water became the first mainland UK utilities firm to launch the drought measures following last month’s heatwave.

It has also applied to the Environment Agency for a Drought Permit on the River Testwhich is a vital source of fresh water for South Hampshire, to allow them to continue to take water if levels continue to drop, despite current regulations to protect the salmon population.

However, campaigners say Southern Water has not conserved water adequately and should not be allowed to extract more.

What does the ban cover?

People will be banned from using hosepipes to clean their cars or water their garden.

They will also be barred from filling ornamental ponds and swimming pools or cleaning a private leisure boat using a hosepipe.

Paths, patios and artificial outdoor surfaces must also not be cleaned using a hosepipe.

Anyone flouting the ban, which will affect nearly one million people, could face a fine of up to £1,000 and prosecution.

How long will the ban last?

Although Southern Water has not said how long the ban will last, it is expected to continue for three weeks as the company monitors water levels.

Alison Hoyle, the firm’s director of risk and compliance, said they were hoping for “substantial rain”.

She told the BBC: “At the moment we’re saying we expect [the hosepipe ban] to be three weeks but we will need to monitor this closely depending on rainfall and river levels.”

Why is the ban being imposed?

Southern Water says it is asking customers to cut their water use in order to “urgently reduce” the demand on the River Test and River Itchen, the source of some of the region’s water supply.

River flows were now approximately a quarter lower than they usually are at this time of year, it said.

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Announcing the measures, the company said in a statement: “For the past eight months we’ve had very little rain – way below average.

“In fact, we’re experiencing one of the driest years on record (for the past 131 years).

“River flows are now approximately 25% lower than they should be at this time of year, so we’re asking you to limit your use to reduce the risk of further restrictions and disruption to water supplies, but more importantly to protect our local rivers.”

Have any other areas have bans imposed?

On Wednesday, South East Water announced a hosepipe and sprinkler ban for Kent spirit Sussex from next Friday amid a prolonged dry spell and “record demand”.

The ban will start from August 12 and hit more than two million people.

“The demand for water this summer has broken all previous records, including the Covid lockdown heatwave,” a spokesperson for South East Water said.

Water levels have depleted at Ardingly Reservoir in Sussex (Photo: Reuters: Toby Melville)

“We have been producing an additional 120 million liters of water a day to supply our customers, which is the equivalent of supplying a further four towns the size of Maidstone or Eastbourne, daily.”

Thames Water, the country’s largest water provider, has refused to rule out a hosepipe ban that would hit millions in London and the Thames Valley.

The company, which serves about 15 million people, says it has seen extremely high demand in recent weeks, putting pressure on its resources.

South West Water (SWW) has also said it could bring in restrictions if there is more “exceptional demand” and sustained dry weather.

What about leaks?

Utility companies have come under fire for water leaks as millions of customers face hosepipe bans during the dry spell.

Regulator Ofwat found that a quarter of water companies in England and Wales had not met targets to cut wasteful mains leakages.

Ofwat said leakages had been reduced by 11 per cent since 2017-18, but challenged the sector to reduce them by at least 16 per cent in the period up to 2025.

Britain uses roughly 15.3 billion liters of water every day, according to Water UK, a trade body.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), has warned that up to £20bn must be spent over the next decade plugging leaky pipes and bringing in water meters to avoid households having to queue for bottled water on the street during heatwaves.

Sir John warned that the UK’s water system is not ready to cope with the coming impacts of climate change, with almost three million liters of water lost every single day because of leaking pipes.

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