Is there a hosepipe ban in my area? Where in UK there are water restrictions, and how to check your supplier

Extreme UK weather, including multiple heatwaves and drought conditions, has led Yorkshire Water, Thames Water and several other companies to introduce hosepipe bans

The UK has seen a summer of extreme weather, with three record-breaking heatwaves and the worst summer dry spell for decades.

Drought has been declared across most of England, with reservoirs sitting at 65% of their average capacity for the time of year.

Despite torrential rainfall that has caused flooding in some areas, the England has only had 35% of the its average rainfall for August while the figure is 34% for Wales.

It has led several water companies, including Yorkshire Water, Thames Water and Southern Water, to announce or introduce hosepipe bans for millions of customers across England and Wales.

But what are hosepipe bans - and how can you check whether your area has one in place?

(graphic: Mark Hall/NationalWorld)

Advertisement

What is a hosepipe ban?

When water becomes scarcer than usual, water companies can restrict what we use water for.

They can tell when water is becoming scarce by monitoring reservoir or river levels.

In periods of prolonged drought these levels can drop away, forcing water companies to balance our water needs with those of the environment.

While water companies say the UK is highly unlikely to completely run out of water, they say they sometimes have to implement bans because it can take longer to treat water and move it through the system during prolonged summer dry spells - like the one we’re currently experiencing.

Water companies are already urging the public to reduce their water usage (image: Adobe)

Advertisement

Hot weather can also lead to greater water consumption as people drink and shower more, fill up swimming pools or water their plants more regularly - all of which places further strain on the system.

For example, Yorkshire Water said it had to pump 200 million litres more water than usual when high temperatures were recorded on 11 July - the equivalent of the daily demand of Leeds.

Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, water companies have legal powers to restrict how water is used.

Anyone ignoring these rules could be prosecuted in a criminal court and fined a maximum of £1,000 - although water companies say they prefer “education over enforcement”.

Southern Water has even urged its customers to report anyone not following the rules to its customer services team.

Drought conditions can see water companies implement hosepipe bans (image: Getty Images)

Advertisement

UK hosepipe bans are not common, but scientists warn hotter, drier summers could become more frequent due to climate change.

Before the Southern Water hosepipe ban was announced, the last set of water restrictions to have been imposed in the UK were during the summer-long heatwave of 2018.

Seven million households in the North West of England and Northern Ireland were forced to temporarily ditch their hosepipes.

Scotland very rarely has to introduce such restrictions.

Hosepipe bans have only been implemented in the country on two occasions over the last 50 years - during the summers of 1976 and 1995.

Advertisement

What are hosepipe ban rules?

Hosepipe bans can be brought in when water companies deem their area to be in a drought, i.e. a prolonged spell of dry weather that has affected water supplies for agriculture, the environment and human consumption.

Many reservoirs in England and Wales are currently well below their usual capacity for the time of year (image: Getty Images)

Under these circumstances, you will be unable to use hosepipes or sprinklers to:

  • Water a garden (includes public parks, sports pitches and allotments)
  • Clean a motor vehicle
  • Fill or top up a pond or paddling pool (you also cannot fill up a paddling pool by any other means)
  • Clean windows, paths or patios

If the drought becomes ‘severe’, commercial premises can see their water usage restricted.

Advertisement

For example, they won’t be able to water any outdoor plants.

And if it gets to the stage where a public emergency is declared, households may have their water usage rationed to the extent that they have to fill up bottles at community hubs and only flush the loo a few times per day.

How long is Southern Water hosepipe ban 2022?

Southern Water introduced a hosepipe ban for its customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on 5 August.

It says the restrictions are aimed at protecting habitats in the River Itchen and the River Test, which run through Winchester and Southampton respectively.

Water companies insist a hosepipe ban is not yet on the cards (image: Adobe)

Advertisement

Dr Alison Hoyle, Southern Water's director of risk and compliance, said the move had been carefully considered by the water company but was deemed to be a “responsible step” in light of below average river flows.

Both rivers are 25% lower than they should be for the time of year, with Dr Hoyle saying the hosepipe ban would allow these levels to recover.

It’s the first hosepipe ban in the area since 2012.

No date has been given for when it will end.

When is South East Water hosepipe ban 2022?

Advertisement

Households in Kent and East Sussex will have a hosepipe ban until further notice.

In a statement on its website, South East Water said it had been forced to take action after the South East had just 8% of the rainfall it typically gets in July.

“This has been a time of extreme weather conditions across the UK,” the statement said.

“The demand for water this summer has broken all previous records, including the Covid lockdown heatwave.

The Holme Styes reservoir in West Yorkshire is deemed to be in ‘drought’ by the Environment Agency (image: PA)

“We have been producing an additional 120 million litres of water a day to supply our customers, which is the equivalent of supplying a further four towns the size of Maidstone or Eastbourne, daily.”

Advertisement

The company added that it wanted to make sure it could maintain supplies for “essential use and to protect the environment”.

According to the Met Office, the South East and central southern England both recorded just 5mm of rain in July - the driest July for the regions since official records began in 1836.

When is Welsh Water hosepipe ban 2022?

Welsh Water became the third company to announce hosepipe restrictions.

Coming in from Friday this week (19 August), the ban covers Pembrokeshire and some adjoining parts of Carmarthenshire in South West Wales, including Pendine and Laugharne.

The not-for-profit company revealed it has already had to tanker in water from surrounding areas and has also had to increase the number of teams it has looking for leaks from pipes.

Advertisement

When is Thames Water hosepipe ban 2022?

Thames Water has introduced a hosepipe ban that came into effect on 24 August.

The company serves 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley.

In a statement the company said: “We’ve been working around the clock to supply everyone, and customers have been brilliant at saving water where they can.

“But, with low rainfall forecast for the coming months, we now need to take the next step in our drought plan. Everything we do now will help protect supplies next summer and help the environment.”

Water companies have called for people to think about their water usage (image: Adobe)

Advertisement

It has already had to hand out bottled water to the village of Northend, Oxfordshire after it was cut off by a positive E.coli test at the nearby Stokenchurch Reservoir.

When is Yorkshire Water hosepipe ban 2022?

Yorkshire Water is the fifth water company in England and Wales to have announced a hosepipe ban.

Its five million customers will see restrictions come into force from 26 August.

Neil Dewis, Yorkshire Water’s director of water, said it had been brought about by the lowest rainfall since records began.

“The hot, dry, weather means that Yorkshire’s rivers are running low and our reservoirs are around 20% lower than we would expect for this time of year,” he said.

Advertisement

The UK’s drought has seen grass go brown across the country (image: AFP/Getty Images)

“We’ve been doing everything we can to avoid putting in restrictions but, unfortunately, they’re now necessary as part of our drought planning.”

Mr Dewis said the firm’s drought “trigger point” had been reached, and added that the restrictions would ensure there was enough supply for “essential needs” in 2022 and 2023.

When is South West Water hosepipe ban 2022?

South West Water is the sixth firm to announce water restrictions.

From next Tuesday (23 August), households in Cornwall and the western extremities of Devon will be hit by a hosepipe ban.

Advertisement

It will be the first ban in the area for 26 years, and follows the driest July in the region for almost a century.

South West Water said its reservoirs were at 49% capacity and that it had installed a new borehole to keep taps flowing.

It also revealed it was fixing around 2,000 leaks a month, with a third occurring on customer pipelines.

Despite most of England being in drought, less than half of water companies have announced hosepipe bans (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Will Affinity Water introduce hosepipe ban?

There has been some speculation about whether water supplier Affinity Water will introduce a hosepipe ban.

Advertisement

The company serves almost four million customers in: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and other parts of the South East.

Despite one of its areas - Bedfordshire - having recorded just 13% of its average August rainfall so far this month, the company has insisted it has no plans to introduce a hosepipe ban.

The company’s website says: “At current levels, it’s unlikely we’ll need to introduce restrictions this year.”

Are other UK hosepipe bans likely?

Six companies have either introduced or signalled their intention to bring in a hosepipe ban, meaning under half of the firms in England and Wales have signalled they will introduce bans.

But with nine of the 14 areas of England now deemed to be in an official drought, more water companies are likely to follow suit.

Advertisement

These areas are:

  • Devon and Cornwall
  • Solent and South Downs
  • Kent and South London (including East Sussex)
  • Herts and North London
  • East Anglia
  • Thames
  • Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire
  • East Midlands
  • Yorkshire

Affinity Water, Anglian Water, Bristol Water, Portsmouth Water, Severn Trent Water, South Staffs Water and Wessex Water all either partially or fully operate in these areas.

Firms that have already introduced hosepipe bans, including, Southern Water, South West Water and South East Water, have not expanded restrictions across their entire service area but also have service areas within the official drought zones.

Official drought status means water companies have to step up their water-saving measures, particularly for essential supplies.

The UK drought has brought previously underwater features to the surface (image: Getty Images)

Advertisement

While heavy rain has hit the South West and is expected to fall in many other parts of England and Wales in the coming days, the likelihood is that the UK will remain in drought until 2023, the Environment Agency has suggested.

“We’ve lost a week’s worth of rain and it’ll take weeks of rain, we’ll need probably average or slightly above average rainfall this autumn into this winter for us to not be in a drought next year,” executive director for local operations at the Environment Agency John Curtin told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme on 12 August.

Scotland has also been hit by drier than usual conditions, although hosepipe bans are unlikely to be introduced in the nation.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has said groundwater levels in the Borders and Fife have reached “significant scarcity”.

A temporary suspension of water extraction operations was briefly introduced for farmers in the catchment area for the River Eden, Fife.

It all comes after UK Environment Secretary George Eustice exerted political pressure on water companies to do more to safeguard water supplies.

Advertisement

The South East, central southern England and East Anglia all recorded their driest July on record (image: Getty Images)

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph on 7 August, he said he “strongly” urged water firms to follow the examples of Southern Water, South East Water and Welsh Water in introducing bans.

He has since met with water company chief executives, who he said “reassured” him that “supplies remain resilient across the country”.

Industry body Water UK said its members were in constant dialogue with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

“As we have seen this summer, companies are perfectly prepared to use restrictions to protect the environment where that becomes necessary,” it said.

How can you check if there’s a hosepipe ban?

Advertisement

You can see whether or not there’s a hosepipe ban in your area by checking with your water supplier.

Water UK has itself suggested people turn off taps while brushing their teeth, use watering cans instead of garden hoses, and allow lawns to go brown.

The trade body is running a Water’s Worth Saving campaign that provides further tips on how people can reduce water usage.

How can I check my water supplier?

You can see who provides your water by visiting the Water UK website’s postcode checker.

Given water companies only operate in certain areas, you are unable to switch suppliers.