Grass isn't always greener for water firm

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The Independent Online
Severn Trent Water has come up with a foolproof way for keen gardeners to conserve water this summer - pave over their lawns with concrete slabs.

The water company, which imposed a six-month hosepipe ban on its 3 million customers and made a profit of pounds 238m last year, is also advising gardeners that they could make their lawns smaller by increasing the size of flower borders or leave grass clippings on the ground to keep lawns looking greener.

Other ideas in a leaflet sent to households across the Midlands include leaving grass growing longer and saving rain water.

Labour MP Robin Corbett, whose Birmingham Erdington constituency is covered by Severn Trent, described the ideas as "crackpot". He said: "I have never heard of anything so ludicrous. They would do better to conserve water by stopping the water leakages they are responsible for. They are ones responsible for the huge loss of water - not the customers."

The leaflet tells gardeners: "Tradition dictates that we have a lawn - but do we really need one? Why not increase the size of your borders or replace lawned areas with paving stones or gravel?"

A spokesman for Severn Trent Water said the leaflet had been written to help gardeners prepare for a summer drought. He said replacing lawns with paving was just one solution to drought problems and other advice included what plants to use and to collect rainwater in a bucket.

"We wanted to make gardeners aware of how they can put their gardens together to withstand the sort of droughts we saw last year. We do give other advice such as which plants to use, how to collect water in a bucket and so on.

"Basically we are trying to help gardeners who are cheesed off with seeing their lawn go brown and dead in the heat. We are just giving them ideas as to how they could organise their gardens differently - but only if they want to."

The spokesman said the leaflet, which was launched last week, had the backing of gardener and broadcaster Anne Swithinbank, who appears on Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time: "It is our way of building bridges to gardeners who co- operated very well with us last summer when we had the drought."

A spokesman for the water industry regulator, Ofwat, said it welcomed customers being responsible about water conservation but did not want gardeners to think they had to pave over their lawns.

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