/ Home & Energy

Would you be affected by a hosepipe ban?

A hosepipe ban has been in effect in Northern Ireland since Friday and, with the hot weather set to continue, are we about to see further bans across the UK?

It’s been hot and sunny across large parts of the UK for two weeks now – and there’s no let up this week, with the Met Office saying temperatures will hit 30C in many places.

The hot spell is predicted to continue for the rest of the month. Emma Salter, meteorologist at the Met Office said that the “unusual” weather is set to go onΒ β€œfor the rest of July… with temperatures above average with hot and warm spells, and just the odd changeable spell.”

Water worries

Responding to the hot weather, Northern Ireland imposed a hosepipe ban on Friday (the first in 27 years). So now might be a good time to consider whether other regions of the UK will follow suit.

The last time widespread hosepipe bans were imposed in the UK was in 2012, when seven water authorities asked 20 million customers to cut back on water usage.

A hosepipe ban would be bad news for gardeners, as the then deputy editor of Which? Gardening, Veronica Peerless, wrote in 2012:

“Keeping a garden looking good or veggies watered in summer is always a challenge, and it’s more laborious without a hose – especially if you have a big garden.”

But it’s not just gardeners who would be affected by a hosepipe ban. The ban also covers people washing their cars, filling swimming pools and their ponds and fountains.

Ban incoming?

Water companies are already urging people to use less water to avoid imposing blanket hosepipe bans.

United Utilities, the provider for much of north west England, asked customers in a statement at the weekend to turn off sprinklers and take showers rather than baths, adding:

“The demand is so high, particularly during peak times, that we are struggling to get enough water around the system quick enough.”

Incase a ban is imposed in your area, Which? Gardening recommends concentrating any watering you do on patio pots and baskets, recently-planted border plants and leafy, salad veg as these need it most.

And they say: don’t bother to water the lawn even if it turns brown as it will soon recover when it rains again.

As a budding gardener myself – having moved into a house with a small garden about a year ago – I’m aware that a hosepipe ban would mean a lot more time spent outdoors, filling up a watering can.

But in the grand scheme of things, what’s a bit more time every day spent watering your plants by hand?

Are you worried about the ongoing hot spell? How did you deal with the hosepipe bans in 2012?

What do you use to water your garden?

A combination of the two (45%, 498 Votes)

Hosepipe/sprinkler and mains water (21%, 236 Votes)

Nothing – I leave it to the rain (17%, 194 Votes)

Water butts (17%, 186 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,114

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I have a couple of large water butts that collect water from the garage roof, which I use for watering and pressure-washing the car (not a frequent activity). One is now empty, so hopefully it will rain in the next couple of weeks. When I was younger I grew some fruit and veg but now have few plants that need much watering.

It’s very easy to install water butts and it would help if more gardeners used them to conserve water.

Fresh water is worth far more than its weight in diamonds, but we collectively waste it. If it weren’t that it’s the poor, as usual, who would suffer the most, I would get us to pay more for it.

As usual too, if you make it easy for folks to comply, they generally do. Just look at recycling in general. My local supermarkets collect batteries, plastic bags and much more, and in my street there are recycling bins for glass, packaging and compostable waste. All those bins get filled very quickly. Also, if you get in touch with Edinburgh Council they will give you a compostable waste recycling kit, ie a biggish bin to put out outside on collection dates where appropriate and a small one for the kitchen.

So, if councils provided people with gardens with free or heavily subsidised water butts on demand, I have no doubt that more people would use them. Then, just like with recycling, we would look back in a few years time and wonder how come we didn’t do much to recycle or save water.

That would be a start, wouldn’t it?

There are still many homes that don’t have a water meter, and installing meters where practical would save a lot of water. I hate to see waste too.

Our council does offer subsidised water butts but I was not keen on the design and managed to pick up a couple at a discount price from a local supplier.

Why would installing meters save water?

If everyone was metered, companies could charge whatever they liked, regulate how much you could have in periods of drought, and it would mostly be the less well off who would suffer.

We need to manage available water better. Our authorities are responsible for wasting far too much. Fix the leaks for a start. But most of all, distribute rain water to where it is needed most instead of letting it all run out to sea and especially from flood areas before it has a chance to damage properties.

I cannot comment on charges but it’s fairly obvious that if you have to pay for water you might use less. Your post reminds me that there is a leak on the road into town. I shall check the exact location and report it.

Water is moved around the country but it is necessary to store large amounts in lagoons or reservoirs when floods are threatened. The cost is high and flood risk areas are being built on despite warnings that this will increase flood risk.

I looked at the leak yesterday evening and saw that the it is coming through a pavement and the primary source has been marked in blue. The website does not show a leak at that location so it’s probably been repaired and started leaking again.

I’m surprised that those living near the leak have not complained because the water has been running down one of the roads for more than a month. It was easy to report online and I’m assured that someone will investigate within 48 hours.

Its crazy that we use fresh water to flush the toilet

I am sure systems for storing grey water for domestic re-use will become available over time but a pump, a tank, possibly a filter, and additional plumbing will be required. It will be essential to prevent human consumption by some means.

Alternatively, drink less and reduce the need to go to the loo.

Actually, there’s more than enough water available for this function – there are worse wastes of drinking water [washing the car or cleaning the patio for example].

Perhaps one should only flush the loo when you ‘need to’?

I reported a leak to the local water company recently and apart from an automated reply received no further information and when nothing appeared on their map of leaks I requested a call back. Apparently it has been investigated and nothing will happen for more than a month because carrying out the repair will involve a road closure and diversions. I’m told that it’s not a problem because the water is flowing into the street drains and is therefore recycled. That’s all right then.

I don’t think we should compromise hygiene in the bathroom – there are plenty of unnecessary uses of water to deal with before we start restricting people’s use of the toilet.

On which subject, a friend of mine was talking about her forthcoming bathroom refit and how she was going to keep her existing toilet because it delivers a decent flush; she complained that the modern cisterns are designed to discharge much less water per flush – even the double flush ones don’t match the old cisterns – so she always flushes twice with the modern types [I realise I could have phrased that better].

I’ll put you in charge of a time & motion survey, John.

I agree that we should not compromise hygiene.

It may be worth considering if you have any trees that will be stressed by high temperatures and little water. A subject generally of not much interest in the UK but with the change in climate perhaps one worth an article on. I am guessing young or newly planted trees would be fairly high in the concerns list but also perhaps trees where hard landscaping has replaced areas that might previously allowed water through to roots.

I hate losing vegetables but trees take a long time to establish and losing trees you want is doubly painful. Bear in mind some trees have short lifespans so not too much angst over ornementals with 20 yr lifespan.

It never fails to amaze me when people lay block paving around a specimen tree in their garden and it dies or fails to thrive. Watering the base is not going to help with most trees, where the roots spread well beyond the canopy. Small trees planted in retail car parks don’t usually do very well.

Yeah this is true, people seem to forget that trees have large root systems.

Oddly though, the trees in my local supermarket car park thrive

I recall there were a lot of subsidence problems in clay areas during the 1976 drought, and also in one particular summer in the 1990’s when tree roots started penetrating the drains in older properties where the joints were no longer watertight and water leaked out.

There is no need to water a lawn – it will probably do more harm than good and it will recover – and no need to wash your car. However, people with vegetables may well need to water them if they are to produce a decent crop, and it seems to me this is a sensible use of water. Best to apply it in the evening, and to water thoroughly. However, I’d suggest the way to do this would be to collect waste water from the house – from sinks, bath, shower – which for most people is not easy. Maybe we should be helped to adapt our waste pipes to do this in a drought and avoid sending useful water down the drain?,

I can remember back to the great drought of 1976, when we routinely left the plug in the bath while showering and then got the hosepipe to siphon the water onto the garden.
It was rumoured the police helicopters were flying over the area to see if anyone had a suspiciously bright green lawn.
We have 4 large butts around the current garden which ran out but luckily a heavy overnight shower has refilled them.

Geoff johnson says:
5 July 2018

You don’t see hosepipe band in hot countries sprinklers are always on in Spain

Isn’t it about time the government appointed a minister for rain? or at least a drought tsar?

Perhaps our long-reigning Queen could help.

Most of them are a shower. Perhaps we should apply for some EUrain?

In my opinion,United Utilities are guitly of lack of investment in their systems for purification and distribution! They are telling us there is plenty of water in the reservoirs but are struggling to fill our pipes? They should think about summers like these instead of their shareholder’s profits! Legally in my view, they have failed in their obligation to supply and a ‘contract’ to do that is broken………we should sue them and/or claim for adequate loss of essential public service! I have expensive new David Austin Rose shrubs that I cannot plant until we get wet and cooler weather, plus other plants doing well in pots. Why should I risk losing these because of their failings! I use a hose with a reduced pressure control rose on the end to water the pots, switching on and off between each pot. Also to fill two rainwater barrels, one for my greenhouse tomatoes & cucumbers. I am 81 now so extended time walking about and lifting cans is tiring for me! Filling each can numerous times from a tap is pointless, when I can do this easily with the hose without sloshing around wastefully. Personally doubt they have powers to fine anybody or to prove their ‘case’ in Court. They are using fear tactics on use while ducking their own inadequate service? Disgraceful!

Maybe consider summers like these when buying expensive shrubs πŸ™‚ The essential use for water is for drinking, and if there is a shortage, whoever is at fault, the aim should be to slake people’s thirst first.

So, Malcolm……..according to you ALL Garden Centres must close immediately and people lose their jobs in the process!!!! I have had these Rose plants for a while and drove down to Austin Roses in Shropshire to purchase! The place has hundreds of visitor’s a week and the owners’ win Gold medals every year at Chelsea and again just recently, the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show………therefore you are advising all these horticultural events and businesses must close there doors too……ridiculous! You sound like an apologist for the water companies?

No David, I am simply saying when there is a water shortage, there are priority users. I would suggest collecting waste water from baths, showers, sinks to water private plants if, and when, there is a drought and hosepipe ban declared. Have you seen the crops that are dried up because of the drought, cattle that lack grass and giving reduced milk yields and income for farmers? Vegetable crops that will fail?

I bought a lot of roses years ago from Percy Thrower’s garden centre in Shrewsbury, when he owned it. They were all in containers, healthy, but with a lot of weeds (that didn’t bother us). As we walked to the checkout with a trolleyful, Percy came rushing up to us and said “you can’t take those in that condition!”, and proceeded to thoroughly weed every pot. He then helped load them into the back of our Mini. We still have most of them.

Well I’ll still be using the hosepipe, how will they know?

Your neighbours might tell on you…….

And… what exactly can they do?

There’s a theoretical fine of up to Β£1k if a court finds you guilty.

While waiting for rain it might be a good time to invest in some water butts.

Our 80 Gallon cask has been empty for some time, now. Even given our ample supplies from the mountains, it can’t last for ever. The springs are becoming somewhat feeble just now.

I have fitted one for a friend this morning. I had three butts but one developed a leak before the drought and I did not get round to replacing it. Once the last of the water is exhausted I will take the opportunity to level the paving that has sunk under the weight of all the water. Let’s all cross our fingers and wish for rain.

I’ve got a friend like that – there’s always three “but’s . . . “

Total water n**i’s, typixal Torries!

I already have 2, one on my house and one on the lodge

I have a large garden which I spend hundreds of pounds on each year and hours working on it every day. It’s my main hobby since I retired and keeps me fit, active and healthy. I grow loads of fruit and veg which all need watering to produce decent crops. I have at least 12 big water butts but they’re almost empty now. Only a couple of months ago they were overflowing and the lower parts of the garden were flooded with the torrential downpours we had then. It takes me over an hour with a hosepipe to water just the plants that really need it so I’d be out there all night with just a watering can! I usually let the ornamentals take care of themselves unless they start drooping and I never water my established trees, shrubs and hedges. People are still filling paddling pools, hot tubs and swimming pools, and using pressure washers so why shouldn’t I water my plants?
I’ve always tried to save water but I get more disillusioned every time I get the water bill and see the standing charges have gone up again and are costing me more than the actual water I’ve used. The water companies should be using the money we’re paying them to fix leaks and make sure they’ve got enough reservoirs instead of increasing their profits and telling us we can’t use what we’re paying them for. There are hot, dry spells every summer and long, wet spells every winter. They should plan ahead and make sure they can save enough rain when it falls.

The water companies have invested in equipment to move water around and this is presumably why we see fewer hosepipe bans than in previous years. Building more reservoirs is extremely expensive and that would mean even higher water bills. We could save some money by paying senior staff a bit less: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jun/05/water-companies-pay-national-scandal-gmb-union-says

Small domestic pressure washers don’t actually use much water. I started feeding mine from a water butt a couple of years ago and it’s surprising how economical it is.

More reservoirs might be one answer to the water shortage but they do lose a lot to evaporation when there is non-stop sunshine for weeks on end as we have been experiencing here this year. Replenishing the below-ground aquifer during the rainy seasons might be a better investment and more borehole extraction.

Since much of our mains water supplies come from the treatment of waste water it would be better to develop the potential of sewage than pump it out to sea.

There’s something else that hasn’t been mentioned and has happened in our street a few times. A few years ago after a long, dry, fairly hot spell it rained quite heavily overnight. With the lack of water going into the sewers and people flushing things they shouldn’t (paper towel, wet wipes etc etc) it had become fairly full and when it rained the sewer backed up through the trap outside our kitchen down the driveway and under our house into the cellar – all the cellar. It wasn’t even our sewage – there were things in it which I know weren’t ours. I went under the house and shovelled up what I could, it filled an entire wheelie bin liner. One of the worst days ever and the smell made me sick. Scottish Water’s cleanup crew came and replaced the chips on the driveway and cleared away the rest of the poo and disinfected everything and took away what had been stored in the cellar (no way I was touching it again). It’s happened since to other neighbours too. Btw, we had checked our drains s few days earlier and they were clear. I know there can be flooding after a dry spell but this…? I’m still very careful with water (in Scotland it’s not usually necessary but once a week I have to admit I fill up the bath and let it flush right through in the hope it won’t happen again.

It seems that your surface water drainage is going into the waste water system. This is sometimes unavoidable with older properties but, thankfully, recently built houses have to have separate systems and surface water is usually either fed to a soakaway within the grounds of the property or carried via the water company’s drainage system to watercourses. An additional problem is that some householders have had extensions and alterations carried out [like shower rooms in bedrooms] where, for economy and convenience, the waste has been directed to a rainwater downpipe from where it can feed into the watercourses.

Disposing of non-degradable products down the loo is another major problem; even things marked “flushable” can cause blockages.

Di – It might be worth having your drains investigated. I expect that John is right but there may be some problem that should be fixed. Before I moved into my previous house I learned that there had been a misalignment problem with the sewer for homes that had been built seven years earlier. That was fixed before I moved in and I don’t recall any problems during the time I lived there. I’m sorry to hear about your unpleasant experience.

I have around 33,000 litres in my well but as the well replenishes hardly at all in the summer it is kept for dire emergencies. I did use it last year pumping direct to the beds in an effort to find its capacity and replenishment rate. : (

We have two rental houses, one of which is occupied by people from Spain and France. The water shortage has caused a drop in pressure and for the last week the electric showers have not worked due to this as they have low-pressure cut-outs for safety. The chaps from Spain and France do not understand this and have complained bitterly to me that they “cannot live in a house where there is no shower”. They say that they never have this problem in their own countries… Actually, I can’t recall this ever being a problem here before.
I have reported the low pressure to Severn Trent who have not done anything about it. Ironically, I have had to ask the tenants to use a bath instead!
The problem stems from water treatment works’s inability to keep up with present demand. There has been a significant growth in housing developments which continues unabated. One wonders if this has been taken into account by the water companies?

Just the thing to carry around on your bike (weights around 14 lb /6.2kg, costs around Β£150) to clean your muddy shoes. Surely you can tolerate dirty footwear if you are in the great outdoors or carry a little stiff brush and find a stream or puddle?

Is this the kind of essential core product Which? should be examining when it neglects doing the real essential core products properly πŸ™


Some years ago I fitted a water diverter to a downpipe from the gutters which led rainwater to a water butt. Result; even a short sharp shower fills the butt. Another water butt is fed from the greenhouse roof.
And nobody seems to have mentioned timed automatic watering systems such as those sold by Hozelock. Last time round these were not included in hosepipe bans

K Phillips says:
9 July 2018

Your aside…
‘living in a cave for the past fortnight (and lucky you, it must be nice and cool in there)’
Totally tasteless given the Thai boys situation, where have YOU been in the last two weeks.
Public APOLOGY perhaps.

K Phillips’s comment refers to the Intro which was published on 4 July. The Thai boys have been stuck in the underground caverns since 23 June. It is an unfortunate juxtaposition but I am sure it was not intentional and it could have been the result of a long lead time in producing the article and uncertainty over when it would be released [although the drought is extremely topical and the question of a hosepipe ban is completely up-to-date]. Whether the Intro should now be amended is a matter of editorial judgment but I think it should at least be considered. The article would make no less sense without the cave reference.

Unfortunate coincidences happen. I doubt this was intentional.

An unfortunate coincidence indeed – something we should have picked up and I apologise we didn’t spot it. Completely unintentional of course.

Malcolm, John – I’ve amended the intro. And thank you to K Phillips for raising.

For days on end the local BBC forecast mentions 1, 2, 3, 5 and even 10% chance of rain, but there has not been a drop round here. I think I’ve been short-changed.

Have you tried this? I don’t know whether wind is essential https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pi4mTKufky0
If you were planning a picnic or hanging out your washing, and the BBC mentioned a 1% chance of rain, and it did rain, then I guess you’d be even more upset with them. They can’t really win.

If you could check it out for me that would be helpful. :-). We did have fine rain for a short time this afternoon but it was over in ten minutes.

I hope you rang local BBC and congratulated them. I’m sure they try hard to please.

Yesterday evening the heavens opened and when the downpour ended I checked and the first water butt is nearly full. In this morning’s news I see that the first of the hosepipe bans in Britain is on its way: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-44850128

Any rain down south?

Not a drop in the east for weeks now. The grass stopped growing some time ago but the weeds persist unfortunately. I can’t root them out and I am not sure whether I should spray them in these conditions.

Even the weeds have been struggling here. It was so dry yesterday afternoon that I got out the hose for the first time since the drought started and seven hours later we had a downpour. Fingers crossed that you will get your share soon, John.

I bought a new lawnmower just before the drought started. Apart from demonstrating it to mrs r it has not been out of the shed since. I’ve saved fuel and avoided pollution. Most of my “lawns” (wee=ll, flat areas covered in green stuff) are now largely yellow/brown. It is surprising to see some green patches and some grass that continues to grow, presumably Rye, that makes the lawns look untidy.

One good shower, the whole lot will turn green and I can play with the new toy..

Honda ride-on, per chance?

‘Fraid not. Variable speed Honda 4 wheeler. I did use a Hayter ride-on a couple of years ago but with flower beds, paths, fiddly edges it really wasn’t worth the bother. And I have nowhere to house it unless I evict stuff from the workshop/garage or buy a new shed.. But, I am cheating a little. I have a lot of hedges and grass so now have someone come round for half a day once a month to deal with the hedges, and grass if I’ve let it go, and other jobs as they arise. I’m past the stage of trying to do everything – life’s too short (well, hopefully not).

Not everything seems to have suffered with the drought. I have a clematis that has gone berserk and has produced far more flowers than it did in the last two years.

Climbing plants of all types seem to have gone into overdrive since the wet season earlier. I have had to cut a honeysuckle back because it was overwhelming everything else. I am just hoping my plums will do as well as last year.

A honeysuckle is the one plant I seem to have lost in the drought. It was out of sight between the garage and the road. I will give it a drink but I think I’m too late.

An update here – the first hosepipe ban of the summer in England will affect 7m people in the north-west from 5 August: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-44850128

UK Outlook for Tuesday 31 Jul 2018 to Tuesday 14 Aug 2018:
Throughout this period it seems most likely that there will be a continuing northwest / southeast split in the weather. Meanwhile further northwest, any settled weather will probably be shorter lived, with rain or showers at times, but also some drier and sunnier spells. Temperatures are expected to continue above average, with some warm or very warm spells possible outside of any persistent showers or rain.

Courtesy Met Office.
Maybe I’ve put a dampener on George’s update?

We’d all appreciate a bit of rain at the moment – even if it’s on my parade.

In an ideal world it would only rain at night. A defect at the design stage?