ITV News Reporter Martin Stew explains the rules around the hosepipe bans being introduced across parts of England, and asks people if they would grass on their neighbours if they flouted restrictions
Parched areas of England are facing a hosepipe ban amid very dry conditions and ahead of another predicted heatwave.
Southern Water announced the move from Friday for customers in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, while the measure will follow in exactly a week for South East Water customers in Kent and Sussex.
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 arid parts of England as temperatures are set to climb into the 30s next week.
While it could mean another heatwave - when there is above average temperatures for three days or more - it is likely conditions will be well below the 40C seen in some places last month.
The situation has prompted calls for action to reduce water consumption, which would help protect the environment and vital supplies.
Requests have also been made to restore the country’s lost wetlands “on an enormous scale” to tackle a future of drier summers and droughts.
Southern Water said it is asking customers “to limit... use to reduce the risk of further restrictions and disruption to water supplies, but more importantly to protect our local rivers”.
Meanwhile, South East Water said it had been “left with no choice but to restrict the use of hosepipes and sprinklers” from midnight on August 12, within Kent and Sussex, “until further notice”.
The firm added that it was taking the step “to ensure we have enough water for both essential use and to protect the environment” and to enable a reduction in the amount of water “we need to take from already stressed local water sources”.
Could more areas face bans?
Other water firms have so far held off bringing in restrictions despite low water levels, though some say they may need to implement bans if the dry weather continues.
Households who have not yet been hit by restrictions are being urged to avoid using hosepipes for watering the garden or cleaning the car.
Thames Water’s desalination plant at Beckton, east London, which was built to deliver up to 100 million litres of water a day in dry weather events, is currently out of service. Parts of England have seen the most parched July in records, dating back to 1836.
In its latest update, South West Water said that “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 to limit the pressure on resources and to protect the environment”.
In Wales, Welsh Water said water resources across the majority of the country were in a “reasonably good position” despite the dry period, but said it was concerned about Pembrokeshire, where average rainfall had been a lot lower than elsewhere.
Some water companies say they are not anticipating having to bring in restrictions this year – but warned the autumn and winter would need to restock supplies.
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Affinity Water, which supplies water to parts of south-east England and London, said that it should not need to introduce restrictions this year, but was dependent on rainfall over the coming winter to refill groundwater aquifers for next spring and summer.
Yorkshire Water said the area had received some rain, which had slowed the rate at which water levels were falling in its reservoirs and enabled it to take some water from the area’s rivers.
Reservoirs in the region are 51% full, down 2% over the week, a spokesman said, adding that the message was still to ask customers to use water wisely.
However, there is currently no suggestion of a nationwide ban as the situation is less critical further north.
Rivers in 'desperate state'
This follows the lowest eight-month period for rainfall, 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.
Criticism has also been directed at last-minute announcements, which 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 and support for households to reduce water usage, such as installing low flow toilets and water butts.
It's also asking for sustainable drainage, including rain gardens, wetlands and permeable paving, to build up local stores of water underground.
What are the rules for households?
Households are not allowed to use a hosepipe, garden sprinklers and irrigation systems connected to the mains, for any of the following uses:
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