UK Weather: Heatwave Sees First Hosepipe Ban Imposed In England Since 2012

Sara C Nelson

A hosepipe ban could be imposed on residents in the north west of England following what is believed to be the longest heatwave since 1976.

The United Utilities ban will come into force on Sunday 5 August and will affect millions of customers with the exception of those in Carlisle and the north Eden Valley, where supplies currently remain at reasonable levels.

Customers are able to provide feedback to the company if they believe they should be exempt.

Martin Padley, United Utilities Water Services Director, said: “Despite some recent rainfall, reservoir levels are still lower than we would expect at this time of year and, with forecasters predicting a return to hot, dry weather for the rest of July, we are now at a point where we will need to impose some temporary restrictions on customers.”

WATER FACTS 

  • A hosepipe uses 540 litres an hour, as much as a family of four would use in one day. 
  • A sprinkler left running overnight uses as much water as a family of four would use in one week. 
  • A hosepipe ban can reduce water usage by 5-10%. 
  • In the north west, this would amount to more than 100 million litres per day. 

“It is not a decision we have taken lightly and we are enormously grateful to customers for having helped reduce the demand on our network over the last couple of weeks, but unless we get a period of sustained rainfall before 5 August, these restrictions will help us safeguard essential water supplies for longer,” Padley added.

Whilst the ban restricts the use of hosepipes or sprinklers for watering private gardens and washing cars, customers will still be able to water their gardens with a watering can and wash their vehicles using a bucket and sponge. These methods typically use a fraction of the amount of water of a hosepipe or sprinkler.

Earlier this month, the company urged customers to use water sparingly in a bid to avoid a potential ban, as it pumped billions of extra litres into the network to meet intense demand.

June was an unusually hot and dry month, with the UK receiving less than half the average rainfall for the month, and England seeing just a quarter of the normal amount of rain.

Millions of customers in the north west will be affected by the ban 

Wayoh Reservoir near Manchester usually provides up to half of Bolton’s water, but was left virtually empty as pressures of the hot weather ate into supplies. The heatwave has seen the mercury exceed 32C, though a respite in the form of some scattered showers are expected over the coming week.

The last hosepipe ban in England was imposed in 2012.

But elsewhere in England and Wales, water companies said they had no plans for a hosepipe ban.

Severn Trent Water and South Staffs Water both said reservoirs were “healthy” and Anglian Water’s reservoir levels were where they should be or slightly above average.

An Affinity Water spokesman said: “The wet start to spring helped to ensure our groundwater sources were in a healthy position before the start of the summer and it is unlikely that restrictions will be needed this year.”

South West Water’s total reservoir storage was 78.4%, compared to 74.3% at the same time last year.

Northumbrian Water, Bristol Water and Thames Water all said they were not planning bans, while Wessex Water said there was “no prospect” of imposing the region’s first hosepipe ban since 1976.

But the company said it was still important for customers to do their bit to save water.

Welsh Water said its three million customers should use water wisely, even though it may soon start to rain, warning that after the long dry spell it would be difficult for rain to penetrate the ground and help restore reservoir levels.

Paul Hickey, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said: “Over two very dry months, we have seen a rapid decline in reservoir levels in the North West and we support the announcement by United Utilities to manage water supplies by introducing household restrictions.

“Across the rest of England, most groundwater supplies are at healthy levels and water companies have enough water to maintain supplies if resources are managed properly.

“Many rivers around the country have dropped to lower levels than normal for this time of year, which can be damaging to wildlife.

“We have robust plans in place to respond to these pressures and have stepped up our incident response as well as regulation of those abstracting water to ensure the environment is protected.”

Rachel Fletcher, Ofwat chief executive, said: “United Utilities’ proposed hosepipe ban is not a move the company has taken lightly and has come about after spending weeks managing the specific situation in their area.

“They must now do all they can to explain to customers what is happening and get the right support in place, especially for those who might be vulnerable.

“We are working closely with government and the Environment Agency to monitor how all companies are managing their response to the hot, dry weather.

“We expect all companies to be well prepared to serve their customers whatever the weather.”

A nationwide hosepipe ban came into effect in Ireland earlier this month. The ban will run until the end of the month and prevents the public from using garden hoses, with a few exceptions.

People are not allowed to use a hosepipe to water their garden, wash their car or private boat, or to fill or maintain a swimming or paddling pool, a pond or fountain.

They are, however, allowed to water their garden plants with a watering can. Those found in breach of the ban – which is the first time Irish Water has imposed a nationwide stoppage - could face a fine of €125. 

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