Companies are urging customers to limit how much water they use as fear of another hosepipe ban looms – here’s what you need to know, including how to save water and avoid the £1,000 fine for breaching a ban.
Northern Ireland Water has already put hosepipe ban in place across the whole country and United Utilities is asking customers in north west England not to use their hosepipes or sprinklers, and warning it too may have to put an official ban in place.
Even with a Met Office yellow weather warning for thunderstorms tomorrow, water firms are warning that the heatwave has put a huge amount of pressure on supplies, and only prolonged periods of rain will improve the situation.
The last time a major hosepipe ban was in place was 2012, when restrictions were brought in by seven water companies, covering 20 million customers.
To get help on reducing your water usage – see our Cut Your Water Bills guide.
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How do I find out if there’s a hosepipe ban in my area?
Water UK, the body which represents water suppliers, said if a ban is in place in your region, your supplier should contact you via post, email or text. You should also keep an eye on your supplier’s website.
If you’re unsure who your water supplier is, type your postcode into Water UK’s ‘Find your supplier’ tool.
Here’s what you CAN’T do if a hosepipe ban is in place
The hosepipe ban rules are actually laid out in the Water Industry Act 1991.
If a water company wants to impose a ban, it has to give customers plenty of warning by publishing information on its website, and in two or more local newspapers in the affected area.
Water firms may vary the rules depending on the circumstances, but under the law, they are allowed to stop you doing the following (regardless of whether you use a hosepipe, watering can, bucket etc):
- Filling a paddling pool or swimming pool
- Filling an ornamental fountain.
Water firms can also stop you using your hosepipe to:
- Water your garden or plants
- Clean your car or motorbike
- Clean your home’s walls or windows
- Clean paths, patios or other outdoor surfaces
- The law also says “drawing water for domestic recreational use”, which could include water balloon fights etc
- Fill your pond
- Clean a boat
You could be fined if your water firm bans any of the above and you break these rules.
In theory you could use your watering can to water your plants or clean your car etc rather than using your hosepipe, but your water company may have given advice about this too, even if it can’t officially ban this.
Can I really be fined £1,000 for breaking a hosepipe ban?
If you are in an area where a ban has been introduced, you could be fined up to £1,000 if you’re found to have breached any of the above rules which your water firm has imposed.
In practice, your company may issue you with a written warning as a first step.
We’ve been told that people get caught mainly when their neighbours report them to their water company. If you are found to be breaching the ban, you can be taken to Magistrates’ Court by the water company and, if convicted, face a fine of up to £1,000.
Here’s what the water firms are saying
Northern Ireland Water put a ban in place on 29 June, and a number of other water companies are asking customers to limit their water usage, here’s what they are saying:
- Scottish Water which supplies all households in Scotland, has told its customers to make sure taps aren’t dripping, to use a watering can instead of a hose and to take showers instead of baths.
- Southern Water which supplies south east England, has called on customers to refrain from washing cars at home or filling paddling pools. It has also said to take a four minute shower instead of a bath, and use water from a water butt for their gardens.
- South West Water which supplies 1.6 million customers in the West Country, has suggested people keep a jug of tap water in the fridge so you don’t have to run your tap cold. It also recommends using a washing up bowl using this to water plants.
- Thames Water which supplies Greater London, Oxfordshire, and parts of Surrey, is offering free devices to customers to help them save water, such as water efficient shower heads.
- United Utilities which supplies households and businesses in north west England, has said it is currently having to supply half a billion litres more than on an average day. It’s warning customers that unless they use water more sparingly it may have to bring in a hosepipe ban.
- Welsh Water which supplies most of Wales, is giving customers tips such as taking a shower instead of a bath, putting the plug in the basin when washing and use the collected water instead, and not to leave the tap running when brushing their teeth.
If your supplier isn’t on the list above, you can also check if your supplier has put any further warnings out. To check who your water supplier is, type your postcode into Water UK’s ‘Find your supplier’ tool.
A spokesperson from the industry body Water UK said: “Thanks to above average rainfall in spring this year, water levels across the UK are in a healthy position Britain is not about to go into a drought.
“However, demand for water remains extremely high throughout the current heatwave, so water companies are continuing to ask that we use water wisely to ensure that the high level of demand does not have an impact on water pressure.”
How to cut your water usage
Here are some top tips suggested by our forumites for saving water:
- Water garden plants in the evening. Forumite malebolge says: “Only water [plants] by hand, and only water in the evening. Make sure the water goes to the base of the plants, not sprinkled on leaves etc.”
- Use water from the bath or shower to water non-edible plants. Forumite Hopeless Case suggests: “Plants that have been in the ground for a long time don’t need water unless they start to look unhappy. Our apple tree drooped yesterday so I gave it a couple of buckets of shower water.”
- Re-plumb your sink. Elsewhere, DaftyDuck writes: “[Have you] got a double sink, or one with one of those mini drainers in the middle? Re-plumb it so one runs to an outside tank, and drain non-soapy water into it…You’ll be amazed at the quantity of perfectly good water you have for the garden.”
- Order free water saving gadgets. Some water companies offer to send customers free devices to help you save water, particularly in the bathroom.
- Turn off the tap when you shower. After initially wetting yourself, turn off the shower until you are ready to rinse clean. One MoneySaver reckons you can shower with almost no water at all.
- Save your washing up for one wash. Instead of washing up as you go, save it up and do it in one go to minimise the amount of water used. As one MoneySaver says, it’s a great excuse to leave the washing up!
- Fix leaky taps. Check your meter’s not increasing when you’re not using water. If it is, get leaks sorted.