Drought restrictions - check if your water use is affected

When there's less water to go around, we may be affected by drought restrictions - which may mean being unable to use water around the home or business as you normally would. Find out more about why it happens, and the impact this might have on you by clicking on each phase below.

Phase
No restrictions


What happens during this stage?

We continue carrying out our ordinary water-efficiency and leak-reduction activities.

What are you restricted from doing?

You can use water as normal.

Phase
Before restrictions


What happens during this stage?

We plan for this stage after:

One dry winter

Most of our water sources can survive one dry winter. However, rivers and small reservoirs can struggle.

One dry summer

Long, hot periods in the summer can lead to a surge in demand for water. This puts our sources under pressure.

What we'll do:

  • Boost our work to find and fix leaks
  • Promote ways to save water and advertise water-efficient products
  • Use media to raise awareness that a drought is coming
  • Work with partner organisations to plan ahead
  • Apply ‘drought mode’ to our water sources – for example, taking more water from rivers and reservoirs in the winter to allow underground sources to recover for the summer

What are you restricted from doing?

You are not restricted from doing anything, but you can help by reducing how much water you use in and around your home.

For water-saving ideas, take a look at our top water-saving tips.

Phase
Temporary use ban


What happens during this stage?

At this point:

River flows drop

In some areas most of our water comes from rivers, for example two-thirds of Southampton's drinking water is supplied by local rivers. Sometimes the flow can drop for climatic or seasonal reasons. If it drops too low, we have to limit how much we take so we can avoid harming wildlife and the local environment.

Two dry winters

Our reservoirs and underground water sources are renewed by rainwater. After two dry winters, they can start to run low.

When this happens, we will declare a drought and restrictions are usually needed. Temporary use bans – often referred to as ‘hosepipe bans’ – are the first stage of restrictions.

What we’ll do:

  • Launch our regional drought strategy
  • Apply for drought permits to take more water from the sources available
  • Source more water from neighbouring water companies
  • Give less water to neighbouring water companies
  • Continue usual supply activities
  • Plan for the possibility of a third dry winter

Restrictions

Exceptions - you may use a hosepipe to water your garden if: 

  • you're using a hose for health and safety reasons (the definition of 'garden' includes 'an area of grass used for sport or recreation' - only the active playing area, not the entire ground)
  • you're a Blue Badge holder
  • you're using an approved drip or trickle irrigation system fitted with a pressure reducing valve (PRV) and timer

Exceptions - you may clean your motor vehicle with a hosepipe if:

Exceptions - you may water plants on domestic or other non-commercial premises using a hosepipe if:

  • the plants are grown or kept for sale or commercial use
  • the plants are part of a national plant collection or temporary garden or flower display
  • you're a Blue Badge holder
  • you're using an approved drip or trickle irrigation system fitted with a pressure reducing valve (PRV) and timer

Exceptions - you may clean a private leisure boat using a hosepipe if:

  • you're cleaning any area of a private leisure boat which, except for doors or windows, is enclosed by a roof and walls
  • you're using a hose for health and safety reasons
  • it's for commercial cleaning
  • the vessel is a primary residence
  • fouling is causing increased fuel consumption
  • the boat's engine is designed to be cleaned with a hosepipe

Exceptions - you may fill or maintain a domestic swimming or paddling pool if:

  • it is necessary in the course of the pool's construction
  • you use a hand-held container which is filled with water drawn directly from a tap
  • the pool is designed, constructed or adapted for use in the course of a programme of medical treatment
  • the pool is used for the purpose of decontaminating animals from infections or disease
  • the pool is used in the course of a programme of veterinary treatment
  • the pool is used to rear fish or other aquatic animals, or keep them in captivity

Exceptions - you may fill or maintain a domestic pond using a hosepipe if:

  • the pond is used to rear fish or other aquatic animals, or keep them in captivity
  • you're a Blue Badge holder
  • you're using an approved drip or trickle irrigation system fitted with a pressure reducing valve (PRV) and timer

Exceptions - you may clean walls or windows of domestic premises using a hosepipe if:

  • you're using a hose for health and safety reasons
  • you're a Blue Badge holder
  • it's for commercial cleaning

Exceptions - you may clean paths or patios using a hosepipe if:

  • you're using a hose for health and safety reasons
  • you're a Blue Badge holder
  • it's for commercial cleaning

Exceptions - you may clean other artificial outdoor surfaces using a hosepipe if:

  • you're using a hose for health and safety reasons
  • you're a Blue Badge holder
  • it's for commercial cleaning

Phase
Drought order restrictions


What happens during this stage?

We plan for this stage after: 

River flows continue to drop

In some areas, most of our water comes from rivers. If the flow continues to drop, we have to take even less water. While the river recovers, we will explore alternative water sources. In the meantime, additional restrictions will be needed.

Three dry winters

We’ve never experienced three dry winters. However, we predict it could happen.

As a drought worsens, we have to introduce extra restrictions on how water is used. We will do this by introducing secondary stage temporary use bans. We will also apply for permission from the Environment Agency or Government to take more water from rivers and underground aquifers if it is available.

What we’ll do:

  • Source as much water from neighbouring water companies as we can
  • Request new or extended drought permits to take more water from existing sources
  • Apply for drought orders to source more water from unused sources or sensitive locations
  • Do everything we can to reduce leaks

Restrictions

Watering the following plants on commercial premises using a hosepipe:

(a) plants which are in a pot or other container that is outdoors or under cover;
(b) plants which are in the ground under cover.

Exception

The purpose specified does not include watering plants that are:

(a) grown or kept for sale or commercial use; or

(b) part of a National Plant Collection or temporary
garden or flower display

Exception

The purpose does not include:

(a) filling or maintaining a pool that is open to the public;
(b) filling or maintaining a pool where necessary in the course of its construction;
(c) filling or maintaining a pool using a hand-held container which is filled with water drawn directly from a tap;
(d) filling or maintaining a pool that is designed, constructed or adapted for use in the course of a programme of medical treatment;
(e) filling or maintaining a pool that is used for the purpose of decontaminating animals from infections or disease;
(f) filling or maintaining a pool that is used in the course of a programme of veterinary treatment;
(g) filling or maintaining a pool in which fish or other aquatic animals are being reared or kept in captivity;
(h) filling or maintaining a pool that is for use by pupils of a school for school swimming lessons.

(3) For the purposes of paragraph (a), a pool is not open to the public if it may only be used by paying members of an affiliated club or organisation.

Exceptions

The purpose does not include:

(a) filling or maintaining a pond in which fish or other aquatic animals are being reared or kept in captivity;
(b) filling or maintaining a pond using a hand-held container which is filled with water drawn directly from a tap.
(3) The purpose specified in sub-paragraph (1)(b) does not include filling or maintaining a domestic pond using a hosepipe.

Operating a mechanical vehicle washer, whether automatic or not.

Cleaning any vehicle, boat, aircraft or railway rolling stock using a hosepipe.

Exceptions

Cleaning any vehicle, boat, aircraft or railway rolling stock for health or safety reasons.

Cleaning any of the following using a hosepipe:

(a) any exterior part of a non-domestic building other than a window;
(b) a non-domestic wall

Exceptions

Cleaning of any exterior part of a non-domestic building or a non-domestic wall for health or safety reasons.

Cleaning a window of a non-domestic building using a hosepipe other than for health or safety reasons.

Exceptions

Cleaning a window of a non-domestic building using a hosepipe for health or safety reasons.

Cleaning industrial plant using a hosepipe other than for health or safety reasons.

Exceptions

Cleaning industrial plant using a hosepipe other than for health or safety reasons

Suppressing dust using a hosepipe other than for health or safety reasons.

Exceptions

Suppressing dust using a hosepipe other than for health or safety reasons.

Operating a cistern in any building that is unoccupied and closed.

Phase
Lifting restrictions


What happens during this stage?

We’ll lift restrictions on water use and continue our ordinary water-efficiency and leak-reduction activities.

For a period, we’ll carry out activities to raise awareness about water sources.

What are you restricted from doing?

You can use water as normal.

 
 
 
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