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Your neighbour’s hosing his garden – will you grass him up?

Talk to any gardener in southern England and they’re likely to have one topic on their mind: the hosepipe ban. We green-fingered types must put away our hoses and sprinklers and spend hours watering with a can.

The more adventurous among us will be getting to grips with complicated (and pricey) drip irrigation systems, water butt pumps and grey water siphons to help our precious plants to survive.

People who flout the ban risk a £1,000 fine, but will everyone play ball? Not according to a recent survey by B&Q. It found that 17% of people are planning to ignore the ban, and 85% wouldn’t dob on a neighbour in for using one.

This didn’t go down well with Alan Titchmarsh, who said: ‘It’s vital that gardeners do their bit to conserve water.’

Will suppliers weed out the water-wasters?

We asked some of the water companies imposing a ban how they intended to monitor hosepipe use. They all stressed that the £1,000 fine is a very last resort and that people are very rarely prosecuted; their aim is to work with their customers to help them reduce their water usage. Anglian Water told us:

‘We’re not asking neighbours to “inform” on people using a hosepipe, nor will we be employing anything like “water police”. If we hear of or see a customer using a hosepipe, our response will be to remind people about the drought, and why we have a hosepipe ban in the first place.’

That’s enough to make me comply – I don’t want a visit, however friendly, from my water company. So, I’m going to take some steps to make sure I won’t be left high and dry:

  • I’m going to be careful with what bedding I plant in pots this year (drought-tolerant pelargoniums, here I come).
  • Major replanting schemes will be put on hold.
  • I’ll have a look into getting a water butt (sales have apparently gone ‘through the roof’).
  • I’ll mulch every spare patch of soil at the allotment (where we’ve never been able to use a hose anyway).
  • And – I can’t believe I’m saying this – I’ll be praying for some rain, because that’s going to make my life a hell of a lot easier.

How will the hosepipe ban affect you and will you comply? Would you dob on your neighbour if you saw them generously watering their garden with a hose?

How strongly will you support the hosepipe ban?

I'll do my bit but I won't report a neighbour if they infringe it (68%, 273 Votes)

I'll do my bit and will report a neighbour if they infringe it (19%, 78 Votes)

I won't do my bit (and my neighbours can do what they like) (13%, 52 Votes)

Total Voters: 403

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Perhaps it would be better to set a good example and try to avoid conflict between neighbours.

I would like to see everyone on a water meter if they live in an area that is regularly affected by hosepipe bans. Each household should be entitled to a certain amount of water at a cheap rate (depending on the number of occupants) and use above this should be charged at a higher rate. Most would pay less but those who consume large amounts of water (by using hoses, sprinklers or for any other reason) would pay more. I believe this would make everyone more conscious of water use and help avoid the need for restrictions.

I’ve rain everyday and on more than one occasion more than one per day since the hose pipe ban, so I doubt anyone in southern England will need to use a hose pipe.

And anyone who is a keen gardener must surely have a water butt by now, otherwise they can’t be that keen.

Maybe I should get a water butt and offer to sell the water back to the water companies or my keen gardener neighbours?

“How will the hosepipe ban affect you and will you comply? Would you dob
on your neighbour if you saw them generously watering their garden with a

Yes, of course but shall do no such thing as reporting my neighbour
but I bet a passer-by sooner or later wd report such transgression.

Not on the water-meter thing but those who live overseas
where metering is compulsory and water is relatively expensive, say
turning on water-flow at sufficiently low/very low pressure wd prevent
a registering of water supply/usage hence reduce water bill but needs
a water butt or two to collect the accumulated drips and drips of water
and all for free.

Wonder if this is the case here as to such practice as to water metering.

If water companies want to encourage reporting of
transgressions, they wd indubitably have issued a freephone
hotline that thankfully they haven’t. Remember they need our
goodwill to see things through.

These companies are for-profit outfits with sole shareholder concerns
and shd have invested in schemes years ago to prevent a shortfall of water
that can reasonably be anticipated in drier parts of England and a hosepipe
ban makes things that little bit harder for keen gardeners for one.

I’m all for recycling – paper, glass, clothing etc. But water? There is as much water in the world now as the day it was created! We, as an island, are surronded by it.

It’s a disgrace that our water supply is run by for-profits companies. Meters encourage people to use less so prices have to go up in order to generate increased profits.

Proper investment would ensure there is plenty of water for all our needs. It’s a scam as far as I’m concerned; and no, I would not report anyone using a hose.

Is it relevant that the population has increased and so has water consumption per person?

The rainy British Isles are totally surrounded by water and
one might expect a water shortage in the parchment areas of
say Ozzieland but not in wet Britain.

Lack of investment is the main culprit, the substantial profits of
the water companies being siphoned off to the shareholders
and we all in the affected areas are asked to conserve water,
ultimately in shareholders’ interests in the form of dividends
paid out.

Aviation Spirit says:
13 April 2012

It’s not a ‘disgrace’. What certainly was a disgrace was the grossly inefficient use of manpower back in the days of the public sector management of water. So too, is the manner in which people waste water from their houses. Roll on meters. In real terms, allowing for inflation, my water bills are considerably lower than they were 30 years ago.

“As a consequence of this,
average household water bills have increased by almost 40% in real terms in the first
decade under privatisation (Smith, 2003). “

Sophie Gilbert says:
13 April 2012

If one were really green-fingered, wouldn’t one be capable of growing quite a wide variety of plants that don’t require artificial watering? That would be a start.

I agree, but some will insist on freedom of choice, and think only of themselves.

It is well known that frequent superficial watering discourages some plants from developing deep roots, so efforts with a watering can could be counterproductive.

Aviation Spirit says:
13 April 2012

Have you all gone mad ? This isn’t about ‘water police’, and heavy fines. Various water Authorities have already nade it clear that they are not going to spy, or drag people into Court, but will merely admonish them quietly. This whole ban is merely about reminding us that we should all use much less water. Frankly most of us socially-responsible types will all ‘obey’ the hosepipe ban, and would be doing what we can to use less water anyway. Fact is that even if one in four people flout the ban, the other three-quarters will put up with it. Yes, we three-quarters will all be fed up with those who flout it, but our own efforts will still help keep the water flowing for everybody.

£1000 fine for every leak reported to the water board’s and not fixed within 7 days [taken from shareholders dividends, not increased prices], sounds good to me.

Oh I have misunderstood this article [I must be a politician], its about the consumer who pays for the whole sorry messed up water industry being threatened again, because the water suppliers cannot get a national distribution grid up and running on this tiny water soaked Island of ours.

Will I report my neighbour? of course not as he has set his sprinkler up to cover my garden as well, so I get all the benefit and take none of the risk, [told you I must be a politician].

Mike R says:
22 April 2012

Hold on a minute – arent water companies supposed to supply us with water? In the summer I need to be able to use a hosepipe connected to a pressure washer for tasks such as car maintenance and house maintenance. I also need to be able to top up my swimming pool. The last time there was a shortage, the water companies were allowed to increase prices to improve the infrastructure. In Anglian Waters case, as far as I can see, they have not done so, insteadthey have given shareholders generous dividends and 10 million pound handshakes to retiring directors.

The UK has lots of rain. Lets have some investment in a pipeline from the wet North. To all of you who say that it would be environmantally unfriendly to pump this, I disagree – it would be a good use of otherwise inefficient and expensive windpower, since it would not matter if water was only pumped when the wind blew.

Good points there Mike R, especially on using wind to energise the transfer of water from the west and north to the east and south. Is it not the case that the land in the west and north is significantly more elevated than the land to the east and south? Would not gravity generally do the work of transferring the water from one corner of the country to the other? Once the pieline was full of water, and presuming the outflow was at a lower level than the inflow point, a pipeline could easily cope with the British topography. Better still would be to join up the canals and rivers. And even better would be to stop so much usable water flowing straight out into the North Sea from the east of England. Much of it could be treated and reintroduced into supply or used to recharge the aquifer.

My neighbour always ignores hosepipe bans, he even uses a sprinkler on his grass without paying any extra and, of course, he won’t install a meter. I’ve lived next door to him for 35 years so “grassing him up” is not something I could possibly do. I have an 800 litre stock of rain water in water barrels which I use for watering the garden, I have a stirrup pump for washing the car and I have never watered the lawn regardless as I think it makes the grass less hardy. We need compulsory metering asap and rates based water charges should be hiked to encourage people to get meters. We lived in Europe 40 years ago and everyone there had a water meter even then – are we bonkers?

A fine “British” attitude, to be commended!

Hosepipe ban – good call – it works!!! Must be the wettest drought on record!
As soon as the hosepipe ban was announced I set up an irrigation system in our garden with a soaker hose [fitted with a pressure reduction valve and a timer, of course, in order to comply with the ban exemptions]. I haven’t been able to test it in action yet because it has been raining every day.

Would I report my neighbour for using a hose during this hosepipe ban? To a psychiatrist maybe, he’d have to be standing in the rain since for the past 10 days here in Oxfordshire there has been rain with another 15 days of rain showing in the forecast. But I understand from Thames Water that it’s the wrong kind of rain, so they, who apparently only source water from bore holes will not benefit, since it’s not been raining the average number of nights in the winter (in months with “r”s in the name). If some idiot says “hasn’t the water privatisation gone well” again I will scream. No it has not, these thieves will not invest in new water sources to diversify the supple because of cost, instead spend all their infrastructure money on fixing leaks (to reduce their pumping costs, as the leaking water returns to the aquifer from where it was pumped, not “lost”). How thick are politicians?

Jack says:
30 April 2012

To be fair Thames Water applied for permission to build a new reservoir in Oxfordshire but the people objected! “not in my back yard”as they say.

W.Previte says:
29 April 2012

I have a “well” in my garden. Am I breaking the hosepipe ban if I pump water from my “well” through a hosepipe to water my garden?
I would not grass on my neighbour if I saw him using his hosepipe but would suggest to him that he might like to share water from my “well”.

That should be OK provided you don’t use a hose to fill the well. 🙂

Jan says:
30 April 2012

I did my bit in ’76 when we were reduced to standpipes in the streets, expecting that the water companies would work with other agencies to develop resources to ensure this situation would not arise in the future. Yet in the eighties we had another drought situation, and householders were urged to do their bit. But where were the extra resources? In our area the local company has been talking for at least the last 40 years about creating a new reservoir, but nothing has come of it. In the meantime, thousands of new homes have been built in the south east, with hundreds more to come. Now in another drought situation, householders are once again being asked to make sacrifices, yet the difficulties are rarely attributed to the massive increase in population in this area. However, in an interview the other day regarding the new developments, and asked about water supplies for these new homes, a water authority spokesman said they were easily able to cope with the anticipated increase in demand!
I am seething. I will do my bit and no more. Ask the developers how they will supply the massive estates of new houses being built here. It’s about time the powers that be get together and plan for a sustainable future, setting a limit on how much development any one area can take if it is to provide a pleasant living environment

S says:
8 May 2012

This hosepipe ban is not about underinvestment, it is due to lack of rainfall over the last two years. All that consumers are being asked to do is change their behaviour from wasteful hosepipes to lower consumption forms of use eg using a watering can to water their garden or a bucket and sponge to wash the car, not that much of a hardship for most. Spraying potable drinking water over a garden is the wrong behaviour and we should all try and come to terms with that.

Dave D says:
8 May 2012

I do agree with everything S has written EXCEPT the very first part: “This hosepipe ban is not about underinvestment”.

I’m sorry but I disagree.

The water shortage is caused by TWO very distinct factors. One of them is, without question, the lack of rainfall exactly as S describes.

The other one IS underinvestment – specifically under investment in routine maintenance.

I am in the Yorkshire Water area, but I don’t have any reason to believe that YW are any worse or better than any other water company.

There are many bursts in the roads which run for weeks or even months before they are fixed.

A few years ago I went to the papers about no less than 7 newly fitted Fire Hydrants that I had to pass on my way to work each day. Each one was leaking huge amounts of water – several so much so that the iron lids over them were bobbing about on the water rising up from beneath.

I had reported these daily for almost 2 weeks and I was aware that other folk had too.

YW’s response was that they were “Low priority”.

They changed their mind when it was in the paper with photographs of each hydrant.

I dare not think how many thousands of gallons of water ran out of those 7 hydrants over the 3 weeks that they leaked before being fixed.

There are several places I know of now where there are obviously bursts beneath the ground and water is running to waste – I’ve reported the one I know of but they are not yet fixed.

Two wrongs do not make a right and just because the water companies are irresponsible and profiteering doesn’t give any one the right to be profligate, but it doesn’t take Einstein’s brains to see why customers are angry when the water companies don’t practice what they preach.

Paul says:
11 May 2012

My mother has a pond with fish in her garden. I know she can keep it topped up with a hosepipe, but can she connect the hose to a pressure washer and clean the waterfall that feeds the pond with running water. I can’t find anything about this on the Thames Water website,