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Coping with a hosepipe ban

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!

hose pic, image

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.

harrod horticultural banner, image

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.

tap pic, image

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

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4 Responses to “Coping with a hosepipe ban”

  1. Ken says:

    Not being able to fill a watering can from a hosepipe is scandalous. This is a most economical method of watering a garden in a drought and just because some people MIGHT just abuse it the gov stops it. Some people MIGHT just abuse the hosepipe ban too.

    • Andy McKee says:

      Actually I think the use of a short length of hosepipe to fill a watering can is accepted by most of the water companies, although there’s no definition of ‘a short length’ – if in doubt, consult your water company’s website or speak to them direct. And yes, welcome to crowd control governance!

      • Ken says:

        Thanks Andy.
        On checking Southern and Thames websites they expressly forbid the use of any hosepipe to fill a watering can; I might be wrong on the “short length” proviso but I can’t find any specific reference to that. Be nice if they issued something?


        • Andy McKee says:

          From Allotments4all; I can’t guarantee the e-mail is genuine but you could ring this guy and check. If this helps you, do please ‘like’ or ‘+1’ the article and tell your friends about it on FB, twitter or whatever.

          Re: Hosepipe Ban
          « Reply #5 on: March 14, 2012, 19:35:16 »
          Thames Water
          Customer Relations
          Customer Services
          P.O. Box 436
          SN38 1TU

          Telephone: 08457 200897
          Fax: 01793 424291
          E-mail: Customer.Feedback@thameswater.co.uk

          10 May 2006
          Our Ref: 320428
          Hosepipe Ban and Allotments
          Dear Mr *******
          Thank you for your e-mail of 27 April 2006.
          I am sorry to hear that there are those who find the conditions of the ban confusing, I hope to help clarify your concerns in my reply. ;Your comments regarding our website will forwarded to our Communications Team for their consideration.
          The hosepipe ban does not refer to ‘Domestic Properties’ it refers to private gardens and private vehicles, we take the term private to mean, a property to which the public do not have access to.
          We accept that allotments are not directly referred to in the ban. However, allotments are, in our view, private and hence are included in the hosepipe ban therefore, allotment holders are subject to the same watering restrictions as apply to private gardens, and hosepipes and sprinklers may not be used for watering as access to the general public is not permitted.
          We do recognise that there is a range of interpretations across both other water companies and other stakeholders. We also recognise that the law is not specific, but we are of the view that saving water is the primary goal and allotment holders will be generally understanding of this.
          Further to your question regarding the filling of containers with a short length of hose, there is no legal definition of a short length of hose. I accept that using a length of hose to fill a water butt by an allotment, will result in less water being used than filling several buckets due to spillages as the water is carried to and from the allotment.
          Therefore, I can confirm that it is permissible to use a length of hose to fill a water butt / container by an allotment. However, it is not permitted to use this hose to water the allotment. We would also encourage the fitting of trigger devices to hosepipes that would stop the flow water when the hose is released, so that water is not wasted when the allotment holder walks back to the tap.
          The hosepipe ban was introduced using powers found in Section 76 of The Water Industry Act 1991.
          The following is a link that will take you to the relevant Government website.
          Water Industry Act 1991
          We have no objection you including a link on your website to our ‘Drought Page’ on our website.
          Thank you for taking the time to write to us.
          Yours sincerely
          Gareth Drinkwater
          Customer Relations

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