Tory leadership contender Rishi Sunak wants to look at introducing compensation if a hosepipe ban is a direct consequence of water companies’ failures.
The former chancellor told The Daily Telegraph he would consider introducing the measure, with hosepipe bans coming into force in parts of England as months of dry conditions push the country towards drought.
“It is unacceptable for water companies to impose restrictions on their customers when they fail to stem leaks,” he said.
“We need tougher financial penalties on the companies that are not investing enough to stop water being wasted.”
South East Water became the second water company to restrict use of hosepipes and sprinklers with a ban within Kent and Sussex from Friday August 12 until further notice.
Southern Water announced the first hosepipe ban of the year last week on Hampshire and the Isle of Wight from this Friday.
Mr Sunak’s rival Liz Truss, meanwhile, said such bans should not have to happen.
A spokesman for her campaign told the Telegraph: “We shouldn’t be in a position where hosepipe bans have to happen.
“More needs to be done to make sure water companies fix leaks and waste across their networks.
“As prime minister, Liz would look at how best Ofwat could hold those water companies with the worst track record to account, so that hard-working people across the country are not restricted on their water use over the summer months.”
The spokesman said Ms Truss believed desalination could help shore up water supplies into the future, adding that communities would be given the final say on planning permission.
The moves to curb water use come after England has seen the driest eight-month period from November 2021 to July since 1976, when much of the country struggled in extreme drought.
Last month saw a record-breaking heatwave and the driest July in records dating back to 1836 for south east and central southern England.
For England as a whole, last month was the driest since 1935, Met Office figures show.
The country could be in drought this month if the dry conditions continue, the Environment Agency has warned.