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UK Hosepipe Ban – What you need to know and how to keep watering your garden!

UK Hosepipe Ban – What you need to know and how to keep watering your garden!

As and when a hosepipe ban comes into effect, if you are caught using a hosepipe to water your garden, you could be slapped with a fine of up to £1000. Ouch!

As of writing (Mid-July 2022), the likelihood of a hosepipe ban is still low, but everyday we have without rain, the chances of a hosepipe ban being imposed increases. The UK’s underground water levels, reservoirs, and river levels have been healthy this year, but they are quickly depleting. This month is set to be one of the driest on record.

In this article, I want to explain what a hosepipe ban is, the likelyhood of one coming into effect and, more importantly, how you can keep watering the garden if a hosepipe ban comes into effect.

What is a hosepipe ban?

Hopefully, it is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worth writing in plain English what a hosepipe ban is and the restrictions in place during a hosepipe ban. A hosepipe ban is a restriction on outdoor water consumption put in place by water authorities during times of a serious shortage of water. A hosepipe ban is usually referred to as a Temporary Use Ban by water authorities. Notable hosepipe bans happen during or after a heatwave but can also come into effect after dry winters, like the winter of 2011/12. It is crucial to adhere to any restrictions put in force to ensure that a water shortage does not affect critical infrastructure.

During a hosepipe ban, different levels of temporary restrictions can be applied, including:

  • Watering private gardens or any plants using a garden hose or similar apparatus such as a sprinkler or spray nozzle (later in this article, I will tell you what is exempt).
  • Cleaning a private vehicle such as a car, motorbike, van, trailer, caravan or leisure boat using a hosepipe (yes, that includes using the pressure washer).
  • Clean windows, walls, paths, patios or other outdoor surfaces using a hosepipe.
  • Use water for recreational use, such as filling a domestic swimming pool, paddling pools, ponds or ornamental fountains. The restriction prevents any means, whether using a hosepipe or a bucket.
  • Drawing of water (e.g. from a river) using a hosepipe for domestic recreational use.

If you are using a hosepipe for trade purposes, please seek professional advice from your trade body for accurate information.

Is there going to be a hosepipe ban? – July 2022

As of writing this (15th July 2022), I have been checking the websites of water authorities (notably those in the South East, the driest region in the UK), and I have also been looking through Water Situation reports for England from the Environment Agency. Water levels have been healthy this year, but in the past couple of weeks, we have seen a dramatic drop in underground water levels, reservoirs and river levels. Currently, most rivers across England are classed as below normal or lower for the time of year.

Many water authorities are actively urging consumers to control their water usage and offering tips to help reduce water consumption. As you can imagine, there is a massive spike in demand due to the soaring temperatures, accelerating consumption and depleting existing reserves. At the moment, the water authorities have said they are not expecting to introduce restrictions on water use this summer. If I was a betting man, I would be placing a bet on there being a hosepipe ban if the dry weather continues.

Is a hosepipe ban legally enforceable?

The short answer is yes. The law on hosepipe bans is outlined in section 36 of the Flood and Water Management Act of 2010. A temporary use ban (a.k.a. hosepipe ban) prohibits the watering of private gardens and/or washing of private motor vehicles and the use of water for domestic recreation. A person found contravening a ban may be prosecuted through criminal courts and fined up to £1’000.

Can I use my irrigation system during a hosepipe ban?

Drip irrigation systems have been granted exemption from hosepipe bans in the past (since 2012), and will more than likely continue to be exempt from any future ones as they have been included in the Discretionary Universal Exceptions adopted by all water companies. Drip irrigation systems are extremely efficient in the distribution of water, so no wonder water companies are keen to promote their use. Compared to using a hosepipe, you can reduce your water consumption by 70%. There is, however, nothing written in law to say that they must be exempt. It is always worth checking the rules of any hosepipe ban that is put in place to see if your irrigation system is exempt or not.

So, assuming drip irrigation systems are fine to use in any future hosepipe bans, it is worth noting the conditions they put in place, which must be followed according to the wording in the law. Below I have highlighted what conditions they place on the use of irrigation systems during a hosepipe ban.

  • You must use a timing device, also known as a water timer or a tap timer to control how long the irrigation system turns on and, more importantly, to shut it off automatically.
  • Use a pressure reducing valve (PRV) to protect the system from high spikes in water pressure. Spikes in water pressure can cause joints to pop off and could cause a flood.
  • The emitters of the system must drip onto or underneath the soil surface; they must not spray, sprinkle, jet or mist.

The last point in the list above indicates that we must use a drip irrigation system. It is the only type of irrigation system that drips water onto (or underneath) soil. Micro Sprays, Mini Sprinklers, Pop Up Sprinklers or any other type of irrigation system would not be exempt under these stipulations as they dispearse water through the air. If you collect rainwater to use for your irrigation system, there is no reason I can see why you cannot use that, and therefore continue to use any irrigation system of your choice.

How to care for your garden during a hosepipe ban

I think using a drip irrigation system is the best way to care for your garden. But I would say that! I want to sell you a system 😊. Jokes aside, there are steps other than installing a drip system to help you care for your garden during a hosepipe ban.

Are you allowed to water your garden with a watering can?

A drip irrigation system is not the only type of watering method exempt from hosepipe bans. Water authorities typically allow watering the garden using a watering can, too. Some think this is an odd choice, considering most will fill up the can from the same tap they connect their hose, but there are good reasons for this. A watering can is a much more controlled method of delivering water than a garden hose. It’s not like you can turn the watering can on and let it sprinkle the garden for an hour. It requires someone to carry the water to the plant. When using a watering can, don’t spread water over the leaves and foliage; you need to get in at the base of the plant and deliver water to the roots in the soil. Anything else is just a waste.

Check the soil

Would you believe it? There is such a thing as overwatering your plants. Ghast! In all seriousness, too much water can harm a plant’s health. To determine if your plant needs watering, stick your finger in the soil about two to three inches down. You are checking for any signs of moisture. If you can’t feel anything, go to town and give it a good soaking. We are looking to penetrate the water deep to encourage root growth.

Shade the soil

To help conserve moisture already in the ground, shading the soil from the sun has a massive impact. We often recommend laying mulch (bark chippings, grass clippings, sawdust) over the soil’s top to prevent evaporation. When customers buy drip line from us, we often tell them a great way to hide it is to use bark chippings. This has the benefit of being aesthetically pleasing and helps the drip irrigation system become even more efficient as we prevent the evaporation of water.

Water early in the morning

No, I’m not suggesting this to avoid detection from the neighbours. I recommend watering (with a legal method) early in the morning as the outdoor temperature is its lowest between 5 am and 9 am, resulting in less water loss to evaporation. Watering in the morning allows the plant to dry off quicker compared to providing water in the evening. This prevents your plants from developing fungal diseases. If you don’t fancy getting up early to water your garden, you could always invest in a drip irrigation system and a water timer to schedule it for you (wink wink, shop online for water timers).

What can I use to water my plants and vegetables during a hosepipe ban?

This is my time to shine. I’m going to sell you the benefits of a drip irrigation system! As previously stated, a drip irrigation system is exempt from hosepipe bans. But there is so much more to enjoy with a drip irrigation system. Drip systems can be installed for watering borders, flower beds, vegetable patches, greenhouses, hanging baskets, and potted plants.

Reduced Water Consumption

Fun fact; a sprinkler can use as much water in half an hour as the average family of four uses in a whole day. That would be 152 litres, if you were wondering. Did you remember to turn off that sprinkler, by the way? Typically, a drip irrigation system is 70% more efficient than using a hosepipe alone. This means we can help the environment by using less water and saving on our bills.

Automatic Watering

Using a water timer is part of the stipulations when using a drip system to water your garden during a hosepipe ban. Well, a water timer is the best part of an irrigation system. You can program the timer to turn your system on and off automatically, saving you from getting up early to water the garden; you can even use it to water your garden when you’re on holiday!

Very easy to install

You don’t need any plumbing experience, and an irrigation system is usually installed in a couple of hours (depending on the size, of course). The only tool you need is a good pair of secateurs to cut the pipe; failing that, you can use a Stanley Knife or a large pair of scissors. Depending on the type of system, you may also need a hole punch, but this is usually provided if you buy a complete drip irrigation kit.

All you need to do is lay a pipe network around your garden, connect drip emitters and place them close to the root zone of plants. It really is that simple. The hard part, in my opinion, is making it look tidy.

Relatively low cost

The cost of a good drip irrigation system varies depending on the size of your garden. Still, they cost about £50-£200 (which includes the price of a water timer). You can find cheap kits on Amazon or other discount websites. I would love to be able to sell a kit that cheap, but they are truly awful. I mean, really terrible. You may as well set your money on fire. They are usually poorly designed, poorly made and unreliable. If you’re going to invest your time to install a system, you may as well install it right, so you only need to install it once.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I will keep the article up to date with any news and changes. For being such a good reader, I’ve included a discount code for you to use at our checkout for any purchase of a Drip Irrigation System. It will give you 10% off the price of any Drip Irrigation kit. It is limited to the first 100 readers of this article. Grab it while you can. Click the link below to shop for a drip irrigation kit of your choice and for the discount to be automatically added at checkout. Otherwise, use discount code HOSEPIPEBAN10 at the checkout. If you have any questions, you can contact the team; they’d be more than happy to help.

Shop for a Drip Irrigation Kit Now!

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