When drought exclusion orders (aka ‘hosepipe bans’) are brought into force in your area, the only legitimate hose use is for a short length to fill a watering can. However, smart watering systems and dripper systems are not included in the ban. Together with rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling and smart watering, there is a lot you can do to keep your plants green through the summer.

The ‘temporary hosepipe ban’, beginning on April 5 2012 across parts of the south and south east of the UK, is the result of two very dry winters which have left water storage levels far below normal. The big question for gardeners, of course, is: ‘can I stick a hose into a watering can and water my garden with it?’

This is because of a popular urban myth that tells how during a previous hosepipe ban, the gardener at No. 10 Downing Street was seen on many occasions wandering around the garden with a watering can…into which was stuck a hose. And that he could do this because he was only using the hosepipe to fill the watering can!

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No hoses here, for a while!

While that might have been true once, the law has recently been re-written and updated to close several loopholes – including that one. However, there is still a great deal of confusion out there as to what you can and can’t do.

Basically, domestic hose pipes can’t be used for recreational use, nor for filling ponds, pools or fountains, nor for watering gardens. So expect to see dusty paths, and cars, for several months ahead. If your business depends on using a hosepipe, the news is somewhat better – but to be sure, check with your local water company.

What you can – and can’t – do during a hosepipe ban:

The government’s ‘Flood and Water Management Act 2010’  says that a drought order (commonly called a ‘hosepipe ban’) prohibits the following:

  • Cleaning a boat; filling or maintaining a domestic swimming or paddling pool
  • Cleaning paths or patios using a hosepipe.
  • And, of course, watering the garden with a hose.

However, the government guidance isn’t really intended for Joe Public to read, and even the water companies vary in their interpretation of it. So who do you believe? The answer has to be your local water supplier, because they’ll be the ones sending out the Pond Police if your neighbour turns you in for illicit hose use. Which, by the way, is how prosecutions begin: the police have better things to do!

Excluded from drought order control are dripper systems and smart watering systems, both of which reduce water use by around 75% by delivering water exactly where it is needed. These are fine to use, and available from Harrod Horticultural.

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Watering your garden during a hosepipe ban

Another way to help to ensure lower water use in a garden is to install a gravity-fed automatic watering system that uses (previously filled) storage tanks. A gravity-fed system will be very low pressure compared to the mains, so avoid sprinklers and sprayers.

Catch every drop of rainwater that you can – it makes a bigger difference than you might think! You’ll find more information on doing this in our rainwater harvesting article, and you can learn how to make the water go further by learning about smart watering and greywater use. If you have an old toilet cistern lying around, adapt it to an outside tap so that it fills up again after flushing. This is a much faster way of filling watering cans, and makes watering a garden viable during difficult times.

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Filling watering cans from taps means more work and more time

One way to conserve water inside the house is to only flush the loo ‘when necessary’ – but during a hosepipe ban, go and pee on the garden instead! Just try to avoid salad plants…

Polytunnel watering in a hosepipe ban

Other water articles

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