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South East Water announces hosepipe ban with risk of £1,000 fine for those who don’t comply

Households across Kent who break the rules of a hosepipe ban could face hefty fines.

South East Water, which serves more than two million homes across the region, has banned customers from using hosepipes and sprinklers – but what do the new rules mean you can and cannot do and what happens if you ignore them?

South East Water has announced a hosepipe ban. Image: iStock.
South East Water has announced a hosepipe ban. Image: iStock.

When is the ban?

A ban on domestic customers using hosepipes and sprinklers is now in force.

The temporary use ban does not yet have an end date, and applies to South East Water customers across Kent and Sussex.

It is the second hopsepipe ban the company has imposed in less than a year after implementing a similar restriction last August when England found itself in a drought following the driest summer in 50 years.

Prior to that there had not been a ban across South East Water’s patch since 2012.

Last year was England’s driest summer for 50 years prompting the use of pipes to get water to the Isle of Sheppey
Last year was England’s driest summer for 50 years prompting the use of pipes to get water to the Isle of Sheppey

Exceptional demand for drinking water, says South East Water, has led to multiple water supply issues across its network and bosses say this has now left them with no choice but to bring in restrictions.

The water company says over the past week the hot weather has started to impact customers across Kent, who have experienced low pressure or no water, as stocks of drinking water have reduced to very low levels in local clean water storage tanks.

South East Water’s CEO David Hinton said: “This situation has developed much more rapidly than last year.

“Understandably, we’ve seen customer demand increase in line with the hotter weather, however, this has impacted our ability to keep all customers in supply at all times.

“Despite asking for customers' help to use water for essential uses only, regrettably we’ve now been left with no choice but to introduce this temporary use ban restriction to protect customers supplies across Kent and Sussex.”

The restrictions come into force on June 26. Image: Stock photo.
The restrictions come into force on June 26. Image: Stock photo.

What can't I do during the ban?

If you're a domestic South East Water customer you must now not use any form of hose or sprinkler.

This means that you must not do the following things using any form of hose or hosepipe:

* wash your car

* wash windows, walls, driveways, patios or any other parts of your home

* clean a private leisure boat or other water craft

* fill or maintain swimming pools and/or paddling pools

* fill or maintain a domestic pond in your garden

* fill or maintain any form of ornamental fountain

* clean artificial surfaces such as fake turf or decking

The welfare of animals, such as those in ponds, is protected under the rules. Image: iStock.
The welfare of animals, such as those in ponds, is protected under the rules. Image: iStock.

Are there any exemptions?

Despite the very stringent ban, there are a number of exemptions to the rules, for both homes and businesses, which can be found on South East Water's website in greater detail.

These include being able to fill up your pond, if the welfare of the fish or aquatic life in there will be affected if you don't, while in the case of paddling pools these can be filled using hand held containers. A hose can still be used if it's running from your water butt or some other form of a conservation recycling system at home.

Anyone 'filling or maintaining a permanent swimming pool where necessary in the course of its construction' would also be overlooked as would those who needed it for medical treatment providing they seek further confirmation.

And while schools can't water their gardens or outdoor areas using a hose, they can use a hosepipe to water vegetable patches where food might be growing.

There are also exemptions for some businesses – such as those laying turf or landscape gardeners who will be permitted to water grass for 28 days after it was laid down – while farmers growing food or taking care of livestock are also not required to follow the same rules as domestic customers.

If you think you need to apply for an official exemption, or be placed on the priority services register, before the ban comes into force you can learn more about that and do that here.

There are some exemptions for businesses. Image: iStock.
There are some exemptions for businesses. Image: iStock.

Can I wash my car?

While you won't be able to any longer wash your car at home using the garden hose or pressure washer, some concessions have been granted to businesses that use hosepipes as part of 'commercial operations' and when needing to use that hose to carry out their business activities forms a significant chunk of their livelihood.

Window cleaners can continue to trade while the ban is in place - while some exemptions are in place for businesses trading in hand car washing.

However – while there are concessions for those offering hand car washing, South East Water is asking firms to recycle water where they can and warns on its website that if conditions don't improve restrictions may have to go further.

The warning reads: “We are offering a concession for businesses specialising in hand car washing that use hosepipes as part of the process. If the situation becomes even more serious, we may need to remove this concession.

“But customers visiting a car wash business will be under restrictions themselves and may ask questions about how it is that you are able to continue to operate. During the ban, we would strongly recommend that you plan how you would deal with your customers during that time.

“For example, if your car wash recycles water, we recommend you place a notice on site to state this for the benefit of your customers. If there are ways you could reduce your water use by minimising hosepipe use we would welcome this support.”

Gardeners, employed to tend to someone's garden, cannot use hoses or sprinklers to simply water the garden if it is a supply being provided by South East Water. Garden centres, however, are still permitted to water their plants but the company is encouraging firms such as these to find other alternative ways if they can during the temporary use ban.

And while farmers too, can still use hoses for any 'commercial agricultural activities' or for caring for animals and other livestock - but must not use them to water their own homes and gardens even if they're on the same site.

Those laying new turf – such as landscape gardeners – are subject to different rules. Image: iStock.
Those laying new turf – such as landscape gardeners – are subject to different rules. Image: iStock.

Is there a penalty for ignoring the ban?

Any South East Water customer who ignores the ban risks a fine of up to £1,000 says the company.

Officials have the right to enforce the temporary use ban under the Water Industry Act and will do so from Monday, June 26.

South East Water says it is relying on people's goodwill to follow the rules that are soon to be in place, and believes its customers fully appreciate why there is a need to save water.

The message adds: “We find our customers are very supportive and understanding of the need to save water. If a customer contravenes the prohibition, it is an offence, and if convicted, the customer could face a fine of up to £1000.

“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 restoring our water levels.”

Neighbours can be reported for breaching the ban. Image: iStock.
Neighbours can be reported for breaching the ban. Image: iStock.

How might you be caught?

Officials say they will look into cases where people tell them that hosepipe bans and sprinklers are being used when they shouldn't be. And any decision about prosecution will be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Households however can report someone, via the website, if they think they are breaching the temporary use ban.

Will I get any rebate?

The short answer to this, is no. The bill you pay, says the company, is for the provision of clean safe water.

A message on its website explains why there will be no refunds. It reads: “We are in exceptional circumstances due to the high temperatures and unprecedented levels of demand. We really need to ask every one of our customers to do as much as they can to reduce the amount of water they use. Your bill pays for the provision of clean safe water. We are not asking you to stop using water, but to only use it for essential purposes to avoid waste.”

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