Sprinkler bans stay as system fails

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The Independent Online
Three water companies in south-east England maintained sprinkler bans covering more than half a million homes yesterday, despite half an inch of rain over the weekend.

The bans were imposed not because of a water shortage but because the supply system could not cope with unprecedented demand. The mains pressure dropped and homes were left waterless.

Southern Water sent van drivers touring with loud hailers to broadcast the ban. They found some people were still hosing the garden while the rain was falling.

''We'll have to gain a little more confidence that our customers are using water wisely before we lift the ban,'' said John Foxley, Southern's manager in West Sussex. The company has a hosepipe and sprinkler ban covering nearly 250,000 homes in Crawley, Horsham and surrounding villages in East Sussex.

In and around Horsham, the company has tapped into a new supply from the North. This led to much higher mains pressure and pipe bursts which caused further shortages for thousands of homes.

Southern and the two other companies, Mid Southern and North Surrey which cover parts of Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire and west London, say the rain has sharply cut demand.