The last few years have seen water provision in London and the UK rise to the top of the news agenda like never before.
Many areas, including London have been subjected to hosepipe bans and the prospect exists of drought orders becoming common.
Despite the media’s only seasonal interest in the issue, the water provision in London is an important matter which needs us to start thinking about it all year round.
As a legacy of planning decisions over many years population numbers in the South East continue to grow at a rate which simply can’t be matched by nature.
By continuing to use water the same way we always have and treating it as an unlimited resource we have all contributed to the current shortages.
Does It Really Matter?
Yes! Unless we all take action to use water more responsibly the chances are that in the long term hosepipe bans will become more common and water supplies less reliable.
We have to decide, both as individuals and collectively as a community, whether we wish to safeguard year round supplies or are prepared to accept shortages and restrictions during warmer spells.
What About the Water Companies?
The water companies have important legal obligations to ensure that the water network is safe and reliable and their compliance is monitored by OFWAT.
In a joint press release with the Mayor of London Jeremy Pelczer, Chief Executive of Thames Water, recently said: “We are acutely aware of the need to reduce leakage and are investing half a million pounds every day to bring levels down, but we do also need our customers’ help to conserve precious supplies.”
However it can’t be left only to the water companies to take action – as consumers we too have an important part to play in ensuring future supplies. Luckily many of the actions we can take cost little or nothing.
If we’re to avoid restrictions on our water supplies we all need to change our habits.
Many of the most effective water saving measures are free and require only minimal effort on our part:
Don’t leave taps running – When brushing your teeth always turn your tap off. A running tap uses up to six litres of water per minute.
Take showers not baths – A standard shower uses less water than a bath and can be just as refreshing. (note: power showers may use more water.)
Combine washing machine loads – most machines use more water (and electricity) on two half washes than for a single a full load.
Water Saving Devices – Water Butts are containers connect to existing drainpipes to collect water which can then be used for gardening and other purposes. Easy to fit they can be purchased at most garden centres and DIY stores.
A wide range of devices which fit inside your cistern and reduce water usage are available to buy. Popular makes include the Interflush, the Hippo and Save-a-Flush.
There are a number of escalating restrictions water companies can impose to manage and preserve essential supplies:
a first step water companies may opt to impose a hosepipe ban. The ban
prohibits the use of hosepipes and sprinklers for domestic uses (for
example the watering of plants and lawns or the washing of motor
Commercial use such as the operation of car washes
and garden centres are exempt from the ban as are the filling of
swimming pools and the washing of driveways and paths.
companies may apply to the environment secretary for permission to
impose a drought order. If granted this gives the company the power to
ban a wide range of non-essential uses including:-
– The operation of mechanical car washes
– Washing of cars, boats, trains and aircraft for any reason other than safety and/or – hygiene
– Use of sprinklers and hosepipes to water public and private gardens, lawns, verges, allotments, parks or sports grounds
– Filling of privately-owned swimming pools (other than for medical treatment) and the filling of ponds (other than fishponds)
– Operation of ornamental fountains and cascades
– Cleaning building exteriors apart from windows
– Use of hosepipes and sprinklers for the cleaning of windows
– Cleaning industrial premises other than for safety or hygiene reasons
– Automatic toilet cisterns whilst buildings are unoccupied
Companies may choose not to impose all restrictions as they consider necessary.
Emergency Drought Orders
If granted by the environment secretary companies may impose for emergency drought orders.
allow the water companies to restrict any use of water they deem
necessary. This can lead to domestic water supplies being shut off and
the imposition of standpipes or the rationing of water at certain times
Before applying for an emergency drought order the
company would first seek a drought permit allowing them to take water
from sources such as rivers and groundwater.
descriptions are intended to provide an illustrative guide only and may
not be exhaustive. You should always clarify the allowed uses of water
with your water provider).
Current Water Restrictions
company may apply for and impose restrictions on their customer’s use
of water. These restrictions may vary between companies. Full details
of any current restrictions in your area can be found on the beatthedrought.com website.
Water Company Contact Details
London is served by four water companies:
Essex and Suffolk Water Company
Telephone: 0845 782 0999
Sutton and East Surrey Water Company
Telephone: 01737 764444
Telephone: 0845 6410019
Three Valleys Water
Telephone: 0845 782 3333
note that as with all information on this site these contact details
are provided in good faith but we cannot accept any liability for
errors or omissions. We are not responsible for the content of external