The law on hosepipe bans

The law on hosepipe bans is contained in section 36 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which replaced the previous law which was contained in section 76 of the Water Industry Act 1991.

Previously, under the Water Industry Act 1991, hosepipe bans could only prohibit the watering of private gardens and/ or the washing of private motor cars. The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 has extended considerably the sort of activities that can be prohibited.

What powers do water undertakers have?

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 gives water undertakers to power to make temporary bans on the use of hosepipes for certain purposes and to make temporary bans on the use of water (with or without the use of a hosepipe) for certain purposes.

When can a water undertaker make a temporary ban?

A water undertaker can make a temporary ban if it thinks that it is experiencing, or may experience, a serious shortage of water for distribution. The Act does not define what is meant by a “serious shortage”.

What sort of activities can a water undertaker temporarily ban?

A water undertaker can temporarily ban the following uses of water:

  • the watering of a garden using a hosepipe;

  • the cleaning of a private motor-vehicle using a hosepipe:

  • the watering of plants on domestic or other non-commercial premises using a hosepipe;

  • the cleaning of a private leisure boat using a hosepipe;

  • the filling or maintenance of a domestic swimming or paddling pool (whether by using a hosepipe or using other means, for example by filling it with a bucket);

  • the drawing of water (for example, from a river), using a hosepipe, for domestic recreational use;

  • the filling or maintenance of a domestic pond using a hosepipe;

  • the filling or maintenance of an ornamental fountain (whether by using a hosepipe or using other means);

  • the cleaning of walls, or windows, of domestic premises using a hosepipe;

  • the clearing of paths or patios using a hosepipe;

  • the cleaning of other artificial outdoor surfaces using a hosepipe.

Where a temporary ban refers to use by a hosepipe the ban extends to the use of similar apparatus, for example, sprinklers.

A temporary ban may cover one or more of the activities listed above or cover specified cases or circumstances. A water undertaker is also free to make exceptions to the ban. A water undertaker could, for example, impose a ban on such activities during certain times of the day or ban certain classes of people from carrying out such activities. Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have the power to make further legislation containing exceptions.

A water undertaker cannot place a temporary ban on the use of water for any purpose other than those listed above. However, Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have the power to add non-domestic purposes to the list and may well do so if drought becomes more common as a result of climate change. Parliament and the Welsh Assembly also have the power to remove one of the purposes currently listed from the list.

How is a temporary ban made?

A water undertaker wishing to make a temporary ban is required to give advance notice of the temporary ban in at least 2 newspapers circulating in the area to which it is to apply and on its website. The notice must explain how people can make representations in relation to the proposed temporary ban. If valid representations are made the water undertaker may, for example, be persuaded to make exemptions

The water undertaker is also required to specify the date from which it applies and the area to which it applies.

How long will a temporary ban last?

A temporary ban will last until the water undertaker revokes it. The Act does not define what is meant by “temporary” and, therefore, a ban could last for a considerable length of time. An undertaker may, however, vary the terms of a temporary ban.

A water undertaker wishing to revoke a temporary ban is required to give notice of the proposed revocation of the temporary ban in at least 2 newspapers circulating in the area to which it is to apply and on its website. The temporary ban is treated as having been revoked once of these methods of notice has been given.

What is the penalty for contravening a temporary ban?

A person who contravenes a temporary ban may be prosecuted through the criminal courts and could be fined (currently as much as £1,000).

Will a temporary ban result in the reduction of the amount of my water bill?

A water undertaker who places a temporary ban is obliged to make arrangements for a “reasonable” reduction of charges which are made in respect of the activities which are covered by the temporary ban.