Managing water resources
Help | drought
Frequently asked questions
What happens when there is a drought?
When a drought occurs, our first priority is to maintain a healthy supply of water to our customers while protecting our water sources for the future.
Our drought plan outlines a number of 'triggers' which tell us that we need to take action. A trigger might be the level of water in a reservoir or borehole.
As a dry spell increases in length or rainfall becomes less, the actions connected to each trigger allow us to react appropriately to the drought based on its severity.
The actions are divided into two groups, one that focuses on demand side (the use of water) and one that focuses on supply side (the production of water).
Demand side options
Demand side options are actions that our customers will see the most. Some of the actions we might take are shown here, ordered with increasing severity:
- Extra promotion of water efficiency and increase publicity: Asking customers to use less through the news and internet, increasing with coverage and frequency in line with the severity.
- Offer additional water efficiency devices and audit businesses water use.
- Increased leakage detection and repair: Focusing more people and time on finding and repairing leaks.
- Temporary usage ban: Asking customers to not use water for some activities, like using hose pipes to water the garden or wash vehicles.
- Enhanced pressure management: Reducing the pressure in the water mains to help reduce the amount of water lost through leakage.
- Banning of non-essential use: The most serious measure, a ban on non-essential use would prohibit the use of water for some activities by law.
Supply side options
Supply side actions, with increasing severity, might include:
- Introduction of extra supply sources: Bring in or activate additional supplies where available
- Ensuring all supply sources are fully operational: Sometimes a source may not be in use due to maintenance or a breakdown - these would be brought back into service as quickly as possible
- Prioritising water supply to underground sources: Decrease abstraction from sources that are more drought sensitive (reservoirs, rivers) and increase abstraction from those that are less sensitive (ground water)
- Asking for supplies from nearby water companies: If nearby water companies are unaffected by the drought conditions, we might be able to transfer a small amount of water to reinforce our own supply.
- Asking for special powers to take more water from the environment and rivers: As a last resort, a drought order approved by the government would allow us to take more water from the environment than we normally would be allowed to.
Because we monitor drought conditions and analyse historical weather, we don’t expect to have to take these actions very often.
For example, we plan to have enough water and manage our resources so that we will not require a temporary usage ban any more than once every 40 years.
A ban on non-essential use is not expected more than once in every 80 years.
What is a hosepipe ban?
Hosepipe bans are now known as Temporary Use Bans or TUBs.
In recent history, the name changed as the restrictions on water use can change depending on the severity of the water shortage, and can include different water use activities, not just hosepipes.
TUBs are one measure that can be used when there is a long period of dry weather, and there is a risk to our water resources.
Before a TUB is considered, we would take a number of actions to help reduce demand on the water supply (the use of water), and increase the supply (production of water).
A temporary use ban can cover a wide range of water uses in households and tries to limit the use of tap water to the essentials, like drinking, cooking and washing. The following activities can be restricted:
- Watering a garden using a hosepipe
- Cleaning a private motor vehicle using a hosepipe
- Watering plants on domestic or other non-commercial premises using a hosepipe
- Cleaning a private leisure boat using a hosepipe
- Filling or maintaining a domestic swimming or paddling pool
- Drawing water, using a hosepipe, for domestic recreational use
- Filling or maintaining a domestic pond using a hosepipe
- Filling or maintaining an ornamental fountain
- Cleaning walls, or windows, of domestic premises using a hosepipe
- Cleaning paths or patios using a hosepipe
- Cleaning other artificial outdoor surfaces using a hosepipe
These restrictions are not meant to prevent legitimate commercial use or prevent customers from using watering cans or buckets
Can I use a hosepipe?
If your property is metered you should be aware that the average hosepipe can use as much as 500 litres an hour, so excessive use will affect how much you pay for water.
If your property is unmetered then we do have the power to compulsory meter properties where unattended hosepipes are in use, although we are unlikely to impose this unless water consumption becomes excessive.
We ask that unmetered customers only use hosepipes that are attended (being held) to prevent waste, and refrain from using unattended sprinkler systems.
We can also introduce a hosepipe ban, now known as a Temporary Use Ban or TUB, if there is a requirement to reduce consumption because of low water resources.
Find out more about saving water.
Learn about our drought plan