Hosepipe ban affecting swathes of Devon could last until December
Even though this March was one of the wettest in England for 40 years, a hosepipe ban has been imposed on hundreds of thousands of people in the south-west.
Customers of South West Water in much of Devon, including the city of Plymouth and the towns of Barnstaple, Tavistock and Torquay, are all subject to the restrictions, which are likely to be in place until December.
Another ban for the whole of Cornwall and a small part of north Devon imposed last summer remains in place, affecting 655,000 households.
The new homes affected are those in the Roadford reservoir supply area, which is 66% full, compared with 96% at this time last year. Roadford is the largest area of fresh water in the south-west of England.
South West Water blamed the below-average levels of rainfall last year and England’s driest February in 30 years. Another of its reservoirs, Colliford in Cornwall, is at 60% of capacity, compared with 79% at this time last year.
The water firm said last summer was exceptionally dry and hot, with one of the driest periods in the south-west in more than 130 years, and the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the south-west.
The company said: “Our water resources across the region remain under pressure and as we go into the summer period we have taken the necessary action to safeguard supplies and break the cycle of drought following lower than average levels of rainfall last year and throughout February.
“The temporary use ban now applies to customers in the Roadford supply area and came into force on 25 April 2023. This is in addition to the existing hosepipe ban that is already in place for Cornwall and a small part of north Devon.”
Activities covered by the ban include using hosepipes to water gardens or clean cars. The company said it hoped the ban would be lifted on 1 December – or sooner if enough rain falls before then.
Customers were told they would not receive a discount since they were charged for water use for the purposes of drinking, washing, sanitation and central heating – not for non-essential purposes such as watering the garden.
The company said it would investigate reported breaches, and that confirmed breaches could result in a fine of up to £1,000.
As of the beginning of April, total reservoir capacity across England was at 94%. This compares with 49% at the end of September 2022.
The National Drought Group – made up of decision-makers from the Environment Agency, the UK government, the Met Office, water companies and key farming and environmental groups – met this week to discuss how water companies must reduce leakage, decrease water consumption and find new ways to be resilient to drought.
Rebecca Pow, the water minister, said March’s rainfall had been a relief. “But we should approach the improving drought situation cautiously,” she added.
The hosepipe ban will not apply to blue badge holders or those on South West Water’s priority register. Businesses and farmers are unaffected.
South West Water said it was doing everything it could to tackle leaks, doubling its number of detection staff in the last two years, who help find and fix up to 2,500 leaks a month. The firm said it was also using satellite technology and leak detection dogs to keep leakage levels as low as possible.