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A hosepipe and sprinkler ban affecting one million people across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight came into force today – as the Met Office warned of ‘very little meaningful rain’ on the horizon for parched areas of England.
Southern Water began the ‘temporary usage ban’ today – a week before South East Water restrictions for Kent and Sussex start, covering 2.2million people. The 85,000 people on the Isle of Man have had a ban since last Friday.
Now, Welsh Water has also announced restrictions for 200,000 customers in Pembrokeshire and a small part of Carmarthenshire from August 19 – with the firm blaming the driest conditions since the drought of 1976.
Some 17million more people in other parts of England could soon be hit by further bans after Thames Water and South West Water both warned they might soon have to bring in restrictions – which would affect 15million customers in London and the Thames Valley, and around two million in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset.
This would mean a total of 20.5million people could be affected by water-use restrictions in England. As it stands, the number of people under a ban from today stands at 1.1million, which will rise to 3.3million next Friday.
Welsh Water’s temporary ban, announced yesterday, will mean customers in affected areas will not be allowed to water their plants, wash their cars or clean windows using a hose. Rule-breakers could face a fine of up to £1,000.
In Southern Water’s guidance for what to do if you spot a neighbour breaking the ban from today, the company advises: ‘If you notice a neighbour, family or friend, in the affected areas, using water for the restricted activities please gently remind them of the restrictions in place and direct them to our website for more information.’
South East Water told customers that if they see a neighbour using a hosepipe or sprinkler during the ban from next Friday, they should ‘contact us via www.southeastwater.co.uk/tubs so that we can check to see if any exemptions are in place and take the appropriate action should your neighbour be ignoring, knowingly or unknowingly, the restrictions in place’. It also has a ‘dedicated temporary use ban line’ on 0333 000 0017.
It comes as the Rivers Trust calls for rapid reduction in leakage and support for households to reduce water usage – while the hot and dry weather is also causing the earliest start to harvest for many farmers since 1976.
Ian Christie, managing director of water services at Welsh Water, said: ‘We have not seen such prolonged dry conditions in Pembrokeshire since 1976.
‘Introducing the hosepipe ban is not a decision we have taken lightly, however if we are to make sure there is enough water to see us through the rest of the summer and into the autumn then we need to act now to try and prevent any further restrictions later on.’
Q&A: Where are hosepipe bans and what could happen if I break one?
Where have hosepipe bans been introduced?
- Manx Water: Isle of Man, from last Friday
- Southern Water: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, from today
- South East Water: Kent and Sussex, from next Friday
- Welsh Water: Pembrokeshire and small part of Carmarthenshire, from August 19
What are the rules?
Once the ban is in force you will not be allowed to use a hosepipe or sprinkler to water your garden, clean your car or boat, fill up a swimming or paddling pool or an ornamental pond. Pressure washing a patio is also banned. But the use of watering cans is allowed.
Who is exempt?
Those with disabilities – who have a blue badge – are exempt for watering their garden. So are those watering an area for a national or international sports event.
People watering newly laid turf and newly bought plants may apply for exemptions.
Commercial car washes and professional window cleaners are not affected by the ban.
What happens if I break the ban?
You could be prosecuted and subject to a fine of up to £1,000 in the courts if found guilty.
Mr Christie added that Welsh Water ‘do not intend to introduce restrictions more widely across our operating area’. But critics said the multiple bans were the result of a ‘farcical’ failure to plan ahead for dry weather.
It comes as Thames Water has been caught up in a furious row about its failure to run a £250million desalination plant, which was designed to deliver up to 100 million litres of water a day during times of drought.
Thames Water’s Gateway Water Treatment Works, in Beckton, East London, was built in 2010 to take fresh and saltwater from the tidal River Thames to provide tap water for up to 400,000 households.
But the plant is currently out of service as southern England is experiencing the driest weather since records began.
The desalination plant is expensive to run – Thames Water said it costs £660 to produce one million litres of water, compared to £45 with a traditional large treatment plant. It said that the plant has only supplied water to customers twice, in 2016 and 2018.
The water firm said that even if the plant had been working this summer, it would not have ruled out bringing in a hosepipe ban owing to the ongoing dry weather.
It has not yet brought in a ban but said it will have no option but to do so if it does not rain in the next few weeks.
Thames Water supplies 2.6billion litres of water each day but loses nearly a quarter of supplies in leaks.
The desalination plant was branded a ‘white elephant’ by critics yesterday.
Months of little rainfall, combined with record-breaking temperatures in July, have left rivers at exceptionally low levels, depleted reservoirs and dried out soils.
All of this has put pressure on the environment, farming and water supplies, and is fuelling wildfires.
The Met Office has warned there is ‘very little meaningful rain’ on the horizon for parched areas of England as temperatures are set to climb into the 30s next week.
While it could mean another heatwave – when there are above-average temperatures for three days or more – it is likely conditions will be well below the 40C seen in some places last month.
Reduced water levels at Ardingly Reservoir in West Sussex, owned and managed by South East Water, pictured yesterday
Reduced water levels at Ardingly Reservoir in West Sussex are pictured yesterday as the hot and dry weather continues
Parched ground surrounding Burley Cricket Club ground in the New Forest yesterday, ahead of a hosepipe ban in Hampshire
The parched fairways and watered greens at the Cambridgeshire Golf Club in Bar Hill are pictured yesterday morning
Parched ground at Portchester Castle yesterday. This part of Hampshire does not face a hosepipe ban from tomorrow
A fire warning sign at Richmond Park in South West London yesterday following a long period of hot and dry weather
The situation has prompted calls for action to reduce water consumption to protect the environment and supplies, and to restore the country’s lost wetlands ‘on an enormous scale’ to tackle a future of more dry summers and droughts.
What activities does the Southern Water hosepipe ban cover in Hampshire?
Southern Water has issued the following list of activities which are not allowed in parts Hampshire and the Isle of Wight from today due to the hosepipe ban:
- Watering a garden using a hosepipe
- Cleaning a private motor-vehicle using a hosepipe
- Watering plants on domestic or other non-commercial premises using a hosepipe
- Cleaning a private leisure boat using a hosepipe
- Filling or maintaining a domestic swimming or paddling pool
- Drawing water, using a hosepipe, for domestic recreational use
- Filling or maintaining a domestic pond using a hosepipe
- Filling or maintaining an ornamental fountain
- Cleaning walls, or windows, of domestic premises using a hosepipe
- Cleaning paths or patios using a hosepipe
- Cleaning other artificial outdoor surfaces using a hosepipe.
Martin Salter, policy director of the Angling Trust, said that there had been a widespread failure by water companies to safeguard supplies, highlighting the lack of investment in new reservoirs.
‘The situation is farcical and entirely typical of our abject failure to plan properly in this country. There hasn’t been a new reservoir built in southern England since 1976, when Abba were topping the charts, yet in that time millions more people are living here and using more and more water.
‘You don’t need to be Einstein to know when faced with the twin challenges of climate change and a growing population we can no longer afford to let the winter rains run out to sea in the hope there won’t be a summer drought.
‘We need to store more water in times of plenty to avoid the economic and environmental damage caused when both our taps and rivers run dry’.
Tory MP John Redwood criticised Thames Water’s failure to get the plant working.
He said: ‘Water companies should not talk about future hosepipe bans as that could persuade people to use hoses while they can. If they need them impose them.
‘They should get on with mending pipes, putting in more capacity and ensuring desalination plants work.’
Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat MP and the party’s environment spokesman, said of the failure to get the desalination plant running: ‘It is outrageous that this white elephant exists whilst millions face weeks of hosepipe bans.
‘It is one scandal after another from Thames Water, from pumping foul sewage into our rivers to not even getting basic infrastructure working.’
Thames Water said the desalination plant – the first for mainland UK – was meant to be used during dry weather events and not for the day-to-day running of the business.
SOUTHERN WATER: A ban for nearly a million customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight has now started today
SOUTH EAST WATER: Around 2.2million people in Kent and Sussex in the shaded areas will face a ban from Friday next week
WELSH WATER: A temporary ban for people in Pembrokeshire and a small part of Carmarthenshire will begin on August 19
THAMES WATER: A Thames Water hosepipe ban would affect 15million customers in London and the Thames Valley. Thames Water’s last hosepipe ban was in 2012. And the company said that unless rain falls soon – which forecasters say is not likely – ‘the next stage of the plan would be to introduce a temporary use ban which is likely to include hosepipes’
SOUTH WEST WATER: A restriction from South West Water would affect around two million people in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. The company, which last imposed a ban in 1996, said: ‘If the exceptional levels of demand and sustained dry weather continues we may have to make the difficult decision to introduce formal restrictions over the coming weeks’
This map from Ofwat shows which water company supplies each area of England and Wales. Key – Water and wastewater companies: ANH Anglian Water / WSH Dŵr Cymru / HDD Hafren Dyfrdwy / NES Northumbrian Water / SVE Severn Trent Water / SWB South West Water / SRN Southern Water / TMS Thames Water / UUW United Utilities Water / WSX Wessex Water / YKY Yorkshire Water // Key – Water only companies: AFW Affinity Water / BRL Bristol Water / PRT Portsmouth Water / SEW South East Water / SSC South Staffs Water / SES SES Water
A spokesman said: ‘Since then we have used Gateway during dry spells to help keep our London reservoirs as full as we can as we continue to meet the increasing demands for customer supplies.
Blueberry boom! Hot weather doubles harvest
Hot weather has doubled Britain’s blueberry harvest this summer – with extra sunlight meaning the fruits are sweeter than ever.
The berries are also available in supermarkets earlier than usual which is good news for environmentally concerned shoppers who will have an alternative to those flown from thousands of miles away.
Industry bodies predict the first week of August will see 546 tonnes of blueberries picked from British farms compared to just 257 tonnes in the same week last year and the total for the summer amounting to 4,600 tonnes providing a £481million boost to the economy.
A majority of the fruits still come from overseas, some as far away as South Africa, Chile and Mauritania but the homegrown version has grown tenfold in the past decade.
It comes after hot weather in June and July boosted growth and the extra hours of sunlight during the period increased the natural sugar content in the crop, said trade body British Summer Fruits.
The increase in production and earlier ripening has also provided a much needed boost for populations of pollinators such as bees.
Nick Marston, chairman of British Summer Fruits, said: ‘We have enjoyed bright sunny days throughout June and July which has helped British blueberries to produce high natural sugars overnight, making them sweeter.
‘Blueberries have become renowned for their amazing health benefits and as farms continue to improve growing techniques with late cropping varieties to extend the season we can offer fresh home grown blueberries for longer.’
‘Due to further necessary planned work the plant is currently out of service.
‘Our teams are working as fast as possible to get it ready for use early next year, to achieve protection to our supplies if we were to have another dry winter.
‘However, even if the Gateway water treatment works was operational this summer then we would still not rule out using temporary use bans’.
Desalination plants turn salt water into fresh water people can drink and use, but the energy needed to convert the water makes it an expensive way of meeting demand.
Last year, Southern Water had to abandon plans for a £600million desalination plant in Hampshire in the New Forest area after opposition from local residents.
Householders who have not yet been hit by restrictions are being urged to avoid using hosepipes for watering the garden or cleaning the car.
Parts of England have seen the driest July in records dating back to 1836, following the driest eight-month period from November 2021 for the country since 1976.
There are indications of a return to more changeable weather conditions from about mid-August, the Met Office said.
Nature campaigners have criticised water companies for leaving it to ‘the last possible moment’ to bring in restrictions, when rivers are in a ‘desperate’ state, and for last-minute announcements that spur an increase in water demand before hosepipe bans come in.
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of The Rivers Trust, said: ‘Every year we get to this perilous position and at the last possible moment, when the rivers are at their lowest, we get discussion of temporary use bans.
‘Announcing it at the last minute causes people to rush to wash their cars and fill their paddling pools, wash the dog, and causes an increase in demand before the ban comes in.
‘This should happen before the rivers come to a desperate condition and there’s not enough water for wildlife.’
The Rivers Trust is calling for accelerated metering, rapid reduction in leakage, support for households to reduce water usage, such as installing low flow toilets and water butts, and sustainable drainage including rain gardens, wetlands and permeable paving to build up local stores of water underground.