The law on hosepipe bans

The law on hosepipe bans is outlined in s 36 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (FWMA 2010), which replaced s 76 of the Water Industry Act 1991 (WIA 1991).

Under WIA 1991, hosepipe bans could only prohibit the watering of private gardens and/ or the washing of private motor cars. FWMA 2010 has extended the sort of activities that can be prohibited.

What powers do water undertakers have?

FWMA 2010 gives water undertakers the power to make temporary bans on the use of hosepipes and 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 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:

  • watering of a garden using a hosepipe;
  • cleaning of a private motor-vehicle using a hosepipe:
  • watering of plants on domestic or other non-commercial premises using a hosepipe;
  • cleaning of a private leisure boat using a hosepipe;
  • 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);
  • drawing of water (eg, from a river), using a hosepipe, for domestic recreational use;
  • filling or maintenance of a domestic pond using a hosepipe;
  • filling or maintenance of an ornamental fountain (whether by using a hosepipe or using other means);
  • cleaning of walls, or windows, of domestic premises using a hosepipe;
  • clearing of paths or patios using a hosepipe;
  • 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, eg, 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 has 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, the Secretary of State has the power to add non-domestic purposes to the list and may do so if drought becomes more common as a result of climate change. The Secretary of State also has 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 two 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 two 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 fined up to £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.