There will be a hosepipe ban announced tomorrow, which will hit one in three homes in the UK, according to a report in the Daily Mail. For anyone who has been struggling through weeks of drizzle, downpours and hail, this may come as a bit of a shock. However, the water companies are insisting it is vital.
So what is happening and what can you do?
The banAccording to the Daily Mail, there will be a hosepipe ban announced for the South and East of England. It will cover Anglian, Southern, Thames, South East and Veolia – which operates within London and the Home Counties. The bans will come into effect by the middle of April and will affect 20 million people. It added that there may also be announcements from Portsmouth Water and Sutton and East Surrey Water later this month
The problem, the report says, is that rainfall has been consistently below traditional levels for the last two years. In fact, while elsewhere has seen its share of horizontal rain and snow, in some areas, this has been the driest winter on record - and the Met says it's not expecting any sudden and significant downpours there for the next month. As a result, some 14 counties are in drought, and more are expected to be labelled as such tomorrow.
What can you do?If there is a ban announced in your area, you have no choice. If you break the ban you could face a fine of £1,000, so you need to find an alternative way to water the garden and clean the car. Buckets and watering cans will be making a fashionable come-back.
Even if there is no ban, Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, warned about the growing crisis earlier this month and said it was up to us all to take action immediately. She announced: "Drought is already an issue this year with the South East, Anglia and other parts of the UK now officially in drought, and more areas are likely to be affected as we continue to experience a prolonged period of very low rainfall. It is not just the responsibility of government, water companies and businesses to act against drought. We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now."
Small stepsSteps can be simple. It starts with fixing leaky taps and making sure we're not wasting water without ever using it. A leaky tap can waste about 90 litres of water a week.
The toilet is a real culprit. If you have a toilet that's more than about 18 years old there's every chance that you use about 9.5 litres to flush. Modern toilets use somewhere between 7.5 and 2 litres, so it could be time for a replacement. Alternatively you can get water-saving hippos that fit into the cistern, or simply put a brick in there to save water.
Washing machines - be they for clothes or for dishes need to have a full load or you are wasting half the water in every cycle.
For gardening, install a water butt to collect rainwater for watering your plants (with a watering can), and clean patios and paths with a bucket and brush rather than a hose.
And for yourself, there are all sorts of possibilities, from turning off the tap when you clean your teeth or shave (running it wastes up to 9 litres a minute), putting a jug of water in the fridge so you don't have to wait for the tap to run cold and taking showers instead of baths (and short showers at that) which could save 400 litres a week.
Save moneyThe good news is that these steps could become good habits. Then even when the drought has passed and the drizzle sets in for the school summer holidays, you will be saving water. At this point you may decide to have a water meter installed. As a general rule if you have more bedrooms than people in the house you will save money. However, if you are frugal, then you could stand to save even if you have more people in the home.
It's worth checking out the calculators in the price comparison websites to see, but with the right water-saving habits, you could save up to £200 on your water bill - which isn't a bad return for turning the tap off now and again.