Hampshire drought permits

Why we applied for a drought permit for south Hampshire.

In June 2019, we warned that flows in the River Test were falling.

As we explained, because of new rules governing when we can take water out of the river to supply customers, there was an increased risk of drought during dry weather. 

Around the middle of July 2019, flows dropped to the point where we forecast that a drought permit may be needed to continue using the river – which is a vital source of fresh water for south Hampshire.

So we applied to our regulator, the Environment Agency, for a drought permit to allow us to continue taking water from the River Test if its flows continued to drop as forecast.

Using a drought permit means we must do everything in our power to reduce water use and so minimise the impact on the river’s precious and unique habitat.

We were granted a drought permit for the River Test on 6 September 2019. We came close to implementing it in mid-September, but thanks to significant and prolonged rainfall across Hampshire throughout October and November, the river recharged and started to recharge groundwater.

The permit was due to expire on March 5 but, due to this improved situation, we don't foresee the need to implement the drought permit before then and  asked the Environment Agency to withdraw it as of 29 November 2019.

It is possible that we will need to reapply for the drought permit this spring or summer and we are already working with the Environment Agency on how to improve preparation for this.


What we're doing

For our part, we have been deploying extra teams and technology to tackle leaks. In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, we’re now saving an extra 5 million litres a day than in February as a result.

We’ve also been helping our customers to become more water efficient by using simple devices in the home or garden such as water butts.

We’ve also been importing water from neighbouring companies under bulk supply agreements to reduce the amount we need to take from the River Test.


What we can all do

If a drought permit is granted, we are required by law to impose Temporary Use Bans (TUBs), previously known as hosepipe bans.

If we do have to do this, it will be carried out in a phased way in specific areas which depend on the River Test for water and we’ll provide full details in advance.

We understand this may be disruptive and inconvenient but it’s important that we all play a part in protecting the environment and the River Test. We will continue to keep our customers updated on the progress of our permit application.

Follow the links to find out more about: 

Protecting Hampshire's rivers

Drought - water restrictions checker

How to save water


What is a Temporary Use Ban?

Previously called a Hosepipe Ban, a Temporary Use Ban (TUB) is a set of rules about how water can be used around the home.

TUBs are introduced during a water shortage to limit the use of water for non-essential activities such as leisure, gardening and washing vehicles.

Why is there a water shortage?

Much of the water we supply for our customers in South Hampshire comes from the River Test. This unique habitat supports many rare species.

To protect the river and its wildlife, we recently agreed new licenses around how much water we can take from the river. During the hotter summer months, the river flows dropped.

To make sure we can supply enough water for our customers without harming the river, we had to reduce how much water we take. The TUB has been introduced to make sure there’s enough to go round.

Is my area affected?

The drought affects areas of South Hampshire whose primary water source is the River Test.

You can find out whether the water restrictions apply in your area by entering your postcode into our drought checker at southernwater.co.uk/drought-restrictions.

How long will the restrictions last?

The restrictions will remain in place until the river flows return to a healthy level.

We cannot predict with certainty when this will be. However, we are monitoring the river flows on an ongoing basis.

Can I get a reduction on my bill?

No, we will not offer affected customers a reduction on their bill.

Our household customers receive a supply of water for everyday essential use – such as drinking, cooking, washing and cleaning.

We do not raise a specific charge for the non-essential uses we are now restricting.


Are there any exceptions?

Yes. Please click on each of the restrictions within our drought checker at southernwater.co.uk/drought-restrictions to see a full list of exemptions.

In some cases, you’ll need to ask our approval if you want to use water in a certain way.


I'm disabled, vulnerable or unwell – am I affected by the restrictions?

Where individuals are required to use a hosepipe for health and safety reasons, they are exempt.

If you're a Blue Badge holder you are also exempt from some of the restrictions. People on our Priority Service Register can also ask us for permission to carry out some of the restricted activities. Please check our drought restrictions checker for full details of the restrictions and exemptions.

If you are not already on our Priority Services Register you can request to be added by completing our online form or calling 0800 027 0800 between 8am and 7pm, Monday to Friday.

What happens if I ignore the restrictions?

Disregarding the restrictions can lead to a £1,000 fine. If we become aware a customer is ignoring the restrictions, we will look into the situation.

If we discover wrongdoing, we may take action. However, we hope this will be unnecessary as our customers have always been supportive in the past.

What is Southern Water doing to minimise water restrictions in the future?

We plan to invest £800m over the next ten years to put in place alternative water sources for south Hampshire. Our plans include a plant to convert salt water into drinking water.

In the meantime, we’re making sure as little water as possible goes to waste by deploying additional teams and technology to tackle leaks.

In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, we’re already saving five million litres a day compared to February. You can help – please report a leak if you spot one.

What measures can I take to be water efficient?

Water is essential to every aspect of our lives. When we have less to go round, we must all use water wisely – and use only what we need. Fortunately, everyday changes can reduce how much you use. Here are some simple water-saving tips:

  • Take the 4-minute shower challenge – switch from a bath to a shower and save around £60 a year on your bill.
  • Never wash up again – modern dishwashers use less water than washing up by hand, as long as it’s full up before you switch it on.
  • Brush with your tap off – you’ll save six litres of water a minute – that’s 35 cups of tea!
  • Can your sprinkler – a sprinkler can use 1,000 litres of water an hour – more than an average family of four uses in two days! Switch to a watering can and waste less water.
  • Plants love secondhand water – washed the veggies or dishes? Don’t throw it away, why not water your house plants?
  • Sun’s out, butts out – fill up your water butts this winter and there’ll be plenty of rainwater to keep your plants happy come summer.

Discover more everyday ways to save water in and around your home.

Why is there still a water shortage, despite all the recent rain?

Most of the water flowing in the River Test comes from underground – it drains from the soil, chalk and rocks that surround the river. These sources are topped up during the wet winter months, when regular rainfall sinks deep into the earth.

However, during the warmer months, fresh rainwater is sucked up by plants or quickly evaporates before it can soak into the ground. As a result, the recent rain has little impact on the river flows.

Does the restriction apply to rainwater stored in my water butt?

No, the restrictions only apply to mains water.

There are pumps on the market which you can use to pump rainwater from your water butt or other storage container.

Is a hot tub classed as a swimming pool?

No, a hot tub or Jacuzzi is not classed as a swimming pool. Their use and maintenance is not restricted.

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