Hosepipe bans: How are the rules enforced?

Neighbours being asked to ‘gently remind’ one another of rules imposed to conserve water this summer

<p>Sprinklers are being banned in  Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent and Sussex until further notice </p>

Sprinklers are being banned in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent and Sussex until further notice

A number of southern British counties face hosepipe bans this summer to conserve water as the UK remains mired in its worst drought since 1976.

Months of minimal rainfall, combined with record-breaking temperatures in July, have left rivers at exceptionally low levels, depleted reservoirs and dried out soils, placing pressure on the environment, farming and water supplies and fuelling wildfires.

The Met Office has warned there is “very little meaningful rain” on the horizon for parched areas of England, with temperatures set to climb into the 30s in the second week of August.

Southern Water accordingly introduced temporary use bans (TUBs) in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight that come into effect at 5pm Friday 5 August, before South East Water followed suit and imposed the same measures on its customers in Kent and Sussex, in force from 12 August, and Welsh Water did the same for Pembrokeshire, active as of 19 August.

Further restrictions are expected across the rest of southern England and Wales if the arid conditions continue as anticipated, bad news for gardeners and allotmenteers and anyone hoping to wash their car or windows or bathe in a paddling pool.

The TUBs imposed so far do not include restrictions on the commercial use of water, meaning professional window cleaners or car washes can continue as normal for now.

Breaching a ban typically incurs fines of up to £1,000 if a repeat offender is taken to court.

Water companies say they prefer “education over enforcement”, with Southern Water asking people to “gently remind” their neighbours of the rules if they spot them violating the bans.

“If you see anyone repeatedly breaching the restrictions, please let us know via our customer service team,” a company spokesman has advised.

Southern elaborates on its website: “If you notice a neighbour, family or friend, in the affected areas, using water for the restricted activities please gently remind them of the restrictions in place and direct them to our website for more information.”

On its own site, South East Water states: “We find our customers are very supportive and understanding of the need to save water.

“However prosecution is very much a last resort and something no company wants to have to do. Instead, we are asking for people’s help as we are dealing with very unusual circumstances.”

The company adds that it “will to a large degree be relying on people’s goodwill in observing the restrictions. However, our customers need to be aware of the seriousness of the situation.

“We have powers to prosecute in a situation where someone knowingly ignores the restrictions and will use these powers where we think it is justified and in line with our enforcement policy.”

South East Water likewise says it is “asking for people’s co-operation” and will not have inspectors out looking for rule-breakers, requesting that any customer who witnesses a violation report the offender via its website.

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