May 20, 2024


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Is there a hosepipe ban in the UK? Why there isn’t a ban despite the heatwave and when they are announced


London is predicted to be hotter than the Caribbean and Sahara desert on Monday, as the UK remains in the grip of an extreme heatwave.

Temperatures will push close to 40°C and could even break this barrier on Tuesday for the first time ever.

The Met Office has issued its first ever red extreme heat warning for parts of central, northern, eastern and south-eastern England, while the rest of England, Wales and southern Scotland is under an amber warning.

The Government has declared a national emergency, increasing its heat health warning from level three to four.

Level four is reached “when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system… At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups”, the UK Health Security Agency said.

Water companies sometimes enact hosepipe bans during sustained periods of hot weather, in order to conserve water.

Here is the current situation, and what you need to know.

Is there a hosepipe ban?

There is not currently a hosepipe ban in any part of the UK.

However, several water suppliers have issued warnings asking residents to conserve water.

Affinity Water in Essex has said: “To make sure we have enough water to go around for drinking, washing and cooking during this red weather alert, we’re appealing to customers to avoid all non-essential water use now, such as hosepipes and sprinklers.”

Severn Trent in Nottingham has issued a similar message: “The hot weather is here and we want everyone to stay safe and hydrated. We are seeing a large increase in water use across the region. Please put the sprinklers and hosepipes away for a few days so we can keep the water flowing for all.”

Bans are issued by your water supplier. You can find out who your water supplier is using this postcode checker.

You do not get to choose your water supplier, it simply depends on where you live.

The last time a hosepipe ban was issued was during the May heatwave of 2019. it was the first in seven years.

How do hosepipe bans work?

Water companies can enact hosepipe bans under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.

The following activities can be banned while one is in place:]

  • Watering of a garden using a hosepipe
  • Cleaning of a private 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
  • Cleaning of paths or patios using a hosepipe
  • Cleaning of other artificial outdoor surfaces using a hosepipe

The use of similar equipment like sprinklers is also banned.

Gardeners can still water their plants using a watering can.

During a hosepipe ban people are also asked to shower rather than taking baths to conserve water, and to generally be considerate with their water usage, for example by not leaving taps running while brushing their teeth.

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.

A person who contravenes a ban may be prosecuted through criminal courts and fined up to £1,000.

More from Homes and gardens

How hot is it going to be?

London could see highs of 38ºC on Monday, rising to a possible 40°C on Tuesday.

The capital’s scorching temperatures mean it will be warmer than Nassau in the Bahamas (32°C), Kingston in Jamaica (33°C), Malaga in Spain (28°C), Athens in Greece (35°C), Albufeira in Portugal (28°C) and Dakhla, in the Western Sahara (24°C).

Temperature map for Monday afternoon (Map: Met Office)

Other areas of England will also experience hotter weather than popular holiday destinations, with the Midlands predicted to see highs of 37°C, East Anglia with 36°C and the North West and North East with 33°C.

It comes as new records were broken in Wales and Northern Ireland on Sunday.

Hawarden, a village in northern Wales, reached 33°C while Armagh in Northern Ireland was 27.7°C.

Where is the red extreme heat warning in place?

The red warning covers parts of central, northern, eastern and south-eastern England, including London and Manchester.

It starts at midnight on Sunday and will remain in place until midnight on Tuesday.

This red warning is in addition to the amber warning issued earlier this week, which now covers almost the entirety of England and Wales, as well as southern Scotland.

The areas covered by the extreme heat warnings (Map: Met Office)

What does a red extreme heat warning mean?

The Met Office has issued a rare warning for extreme heat with “exceptionally high temperatures” expected.

It says the heat will cause “widespread impacts on people and infrastructure”, including:

  • Population-wide adverse health effects, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to serious illness or danger to life. Government advice is that 999 services should be used in emergencies only; seek advice from 111 if you need non-emergency health advice
  • Substantial changes in working practices and daily routines will be required
  • High risk of failure of heat-sensitive systems and equipment, potentially leading to localised loss of power and other essential services, such as water or mobile phone services
  • Significantly more people visiting coastal areas, lakes and rivers, leading to an increased risk of water safety incidents
  • Delays on roads and road closures, along with delays and cancellations to rail and air travel, with significant welfare issues for those who experience even moderate delays

Met Office chief meteorologist, Paul Gundersen, said: “Exceptional, perhaps record-breaking temperatures are likely early next week, quite widely across the red warning area on Monday, and focused a little more east and north on Tuesday.

“Currently there is a 50 per cent chance we could see temperatures top 40°C and 80 per cent we will see a new maximum temperature reached.

“Nights are also likely to be exceptionally warm, especially in urban areas. This is likely to lead to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure.

“Therefore, it is important people plan for the heat and consider changing their routines. This level of heat can have adverse health effects.”

Penny Endersby, Met Office chief executive, said in a sombre video shared online: “The extreme heat that we’re forecasting right now is absolutely unprecedented.

“We’ve seen when climate change has driven such unprecedented severe weather events all around the world it can be difficult for people to make the best decisions in these situations because nothing in their life experience has led them to know what to expect.

“Here in the UK we’re used to treating a hot spell as a chance to go and play in the sun. This is not that sort of weather.

“Our lifestyles and our infrastructure are not adapted to what is coming.

“Please treat the warnings we are putting out as seriously as you would a red or amber warning from us for wind or snow and follow the advice.

“Stay out of the sun, keep your home cool, think about adjusting your plans for the warning period.”

Is this caused by climate change?

Extreme heat events do occur within natural climate variation due to changes in global weather patterns.

However, the the Met Office says the increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of these events over recent decades is clearly linked to the observed warming of the planet and can be attributed to human activity.

The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence.

Dr Nikos Christidis, a climate attribution scientist at the Met Office, said: “In a recent study we found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the UK has been increasing and will continue to do so during the course of the century, with the most extreme temperatures expected to be observed in the south-east of England.

“The likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in a given year has also been rapidly increasing, and, even with current pledges on emissions reductions, such extremes could be taking place every 15 years in the climate of 2100.”


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