2012 Hosepipe Ban
Millions of householders across southern and eastern England are being hit by a hosepipe ban as drought grips parts of the country.
Seven companies are introducing restrictions on water use following one of the driest two-year periods on record.
Domestic customers face a £1,000 fine if they use their hosepipe in defiance of the ban.
Thames Water, Southern Water, South East Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East are bringing in the restrictions that will affect about 20 million people.
Customers will no longer be able to use their hosepipes for watering their gardens, washing cars or boats, hosing down patios and paths, and filling swimming pools, ponds, fountains and paddling pools. Public parks and allotments will also be hit.
The firms insist the restrictions are necessary to preserve essential water supplies and protect the environment.
Martin Baggs, chief executive of Thames Water , said: “Imposing restrictions on the use of hosepipes, although regrettable, is the most sensible and responsible next step in encouraging everyone to use less water so we can maintain supplies for as long as it stays dry, and reduce the risk of more serious restrictions later in the year.”
Despite some rain in the past few days, March was another dry month and the whole of the South East and East Anglia and parts of Yorkshire are officially in a state of drought.
The Environment Agency said most reservoirs were now below normal levels and river flows were decreasing. All rivers are experiencing lower than normal flows, with two-thirds “exceptionally” low.
The water firms bringing in restrictions say they are investing significant resources in fixing leaks, moving water resources from wetter to drier areas and encouraging their customers to save water.
But the Environment Agency has urged companies to do more to tackle leakage rates.
Water companies across England and Wales leaked more than 3.3 billion litres a day in 2010/11, according to Ofwat, the economic regulator of the water and sewerage industry.
Anglian and Southern were among the companies to fail to meet their water leakage targets last year.
But the water companies say the main problem is that it has not rained enough in the past two winters to re-stock supplies.
Peter Simpson, managing director of Anglian Water , 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.”
Southern Water estimated that the hosepipe ban would reduce water demand by around 5% while Thames Water said its last ban in 2006 reduced demand by 10%.
Mike Hegarty, Sutton and East Surrey Water ‘s operations director, said: “We have said from the outset that we very much regret having to impose this bar but this drought is becoming increasingly serious.
“We have no choice if we are to protect our customers by ensuring the long-term security of their water supply.”
Companies have warned of wider restrictions, including extending the hosepipe ban to businesses.