Warm summers and periods of hot weather can inevitably lead to calls for those two words feared most by gardeners… “hosepipe ban”.

And while the ban does limit the amount of water we can use at home in our gardens, there is some good news for businesses in those areas.

What does a hosepipe ban mean?

A hosepipe ban means that it becomes illegal to use a hosepipe to water lawns or plants, wash windows or cars, or fill a pond or pool. And yes – the ban also applies to sprinklers. The temporary law is enforced mainly through the use of a telephone number that people can use to report people using their hosepipes for those illegal uses. Those found guilty of the offense face a fine of up to £1,000.

Now for that good news – businesses are exempt from the law, as are Blue Badge holders and the use of a hosepipe is still permitted for animal welfare, including filling a fishpond.

Hosepipe bans often anger allotment owners, who claim they should be excluded, however the ban states that allotment owners growing produce for their own consumption are banned from using hosepipes, while those who grow fruit and vegetables commercially are exempt.

(Incidentally, the water network owners no longer call them hosepipe bans – they were renamed in 2010 to ‘Temporary Use Bans’, or ‘TUBs’ for short.)

Do hosepipe bans work?

It is thought that a hosepipe ban generally cuts water usage by 5-10%, or 100 million litres per day, reducing the pressure on local water resources. Running a hosepipe for an hour uses about 1,000 litres of water, so it doesn’t take many people watering the garden every day with a hose to add up to a considerable amount of water.

If a TUB does not save enough water, then further restrictions may be imposed such as non-essential use drought orders, which restrict non-domestic water use, preventing companies and local authorities from using hoses to clean windows, water plants and fill fountains and swimming pools. A drought order would also stop golf courses using mains water to keep their grass green, although it would not prevent them using water from lakes or boreholes on the courses.

Are hosepipe bans common?

Last summer saw a hosepipe ban come into effect in the north-west of England, affecting 7 million people. The ban was imposed due to a combination of low reservoir levels, limited rainfall and persistent dry weather. Northern Ireland also enforced a hosepipe ban in 2018. In general, bans are more common in England and South Wales, and happen rarely in Scotland because of the damper climate and wider access to water resources.

Are we likely to see a hosepipe ban in 2019?

Although no areas of the UK currently have any plans for a temporary use ban in 2019, a lack of rainfall in recent weeks means that hosepipe bans may be needed in the most vulnerable parts of the country this year.

A low water table in East Anglia has been made worse by only three quarters of the normal rainfall for March, April and May. This follows on from three relatively dry winters in a row and last summer’s drought in several regions.

If a TUB proves necessary, the water network owners in affected areas will communicate the details via local and national media, as well as through social media.