Water Situation as of 17 August 2018

Above average rainfall in spring this year meant the UK started the Summer with generally healthy water supplies. However, despite recent rainfall, demand for water remains high so water companies are continuing to ask everyone to please use water wisely.

Some water companies are in discussion about their drought plan trigger levels but there are no regional Drought Orders planned at present. However a river level Drought Order is due to be implemented by the EA , but this is different and should not affect any agricultural abstractor.    The procedure would be to implement a TUB before a Drought Order so we will be able to give some warning if the situation changes. 

Ground water levels are still healthy and better than the same time last year.  We have very dry soils at the moment and any rainfall will need to satisfy that before any significant aquifer recharge takes place. It is still projected we will go back to a generally dry August and September, albeit with cooler temperatures. 

The North West of England will  no longer be subject to a Temporary User Ban (TUB) or hose pipe ban.

Northern Ireland had a TUB in place, this has now been revoked.

Advice on TUBs & Drought Orders if introduced

In the event of a TUB:-

  • Nurseries and Garden Centres (& other businesses)

Most water companies have signed up to a UK Code of Practise on TUBs, which means that any businesses who rely entirely on the public water supply for irrigation are exempt under Purpose 1 of the TUB Code of Practice.  This includes nurseries.

For growers who rely on abstraction licences, the HTA are helping the Environment Agency with guidelines to deal with horticultural requests for additional water during the current dry spell, in order to help growers who have run out of abstraction licence volume get emergency water for their crops.

  • Landscapers 

Trees that have not had water at planting may not survive and it would be down to the landscaper supplying the trees to replace it through no fault of their own.  Contractors working on a domestic contract can use a hosepipe to water in newly planted plants for a period of two weeks only. You must obtain permission first (called a Discretionary Concessional Exception) from the Water Company who has implemented the ban. Read more here

  • Domestic gardens 

Gardeners can still water their garden whilst a TUB is in progress by using trickle irrigation fitted with a timer and pressure relief valve.

In the event of a Drought Order:

  • If a Drought Order (A "Section 57 Order") is brought in then horticulture has an exemption for container grown plants and protected crops, so most nurseries are exempt from the ban.  This is not a hose pipe ban but a ban on abstraction from rivers and bore holes and is far more serious, having implication for crops grown in the ground or watered through abstraction licences.


If you have any concerns over any ban or drought order, please contact your public water supplier who can help you with your water supply position and answer any questions. 


Information for Abstractors

  • Many growers who have a river or ground water abstraction are experiencing “Hands Off Flow” (HoF) conditions with restrictions on either when or how much can be abstracted from water sources, some have now run out of abstraction volumes.  The HTA helped the Environment Agency with guidelines to deal with horticultural requests for additional water. This resulted in the EA announcing 'flexible' arrangements for abstraction volumes where the need is extreme. Abstractors can apply for a 'temporary flexible volume' for up to a 48 hour period. Further information can be found by clicking here.  The new flexibility in temporary licencing support is working well with many growers being supported in making temporary licence extensions or trading arrangements.   There are 803 restrictions on abstraction at present.  Out of that total 361 are in the West Midlands and 206 are in East Anglia.
  • The Environment Agency are stepping up their abstraction inspections, particularly those who they suspect may be over abstracting. Please see the document below for advice from Dove Associates on EA inspections.  EA Inspection Powers




United Utilities, the public water supplier in the North West, will not now implement a Temporary User Ban (TUB) or hose pipe ban. However they are still consulting on a Section 57 Drought order. The water situation has stabilised but UU are still low on water resources.  The future position is very dependant on getting normal rainfall in August and September. 

As this area, along with the North West, relies more on surface water for its source, it is experiencing pressure on water resources. Please keep an eye on this Water Update to know if the situation changes.

Yorkshire Water are in a slightly better position but there may still be a possibility of a TUB consultation if we experience more dry weather . The Derwent Valley reservoir is still low.   

The area is at a heightened state of awareness as, for example, the River Teme, a River Severn tributary has stopped flowing in some parts, however there are no TUB consultations currently planned.

These areas are in a better position, with levels being at or just below normal. There are no TUB consultations currently planned. The South East is in the best position as ground water levels remain normal or just below. The south is in a much better position than the North.


Here is the latest report from SEPA: 

Water Scarcity Report Scotland August 2018


Here is the latest report from Natural Resources Wales:

Water Situation Report Wales June 2018



Here is the latest news from Northern Ireland Water, who were the first to introduce a hosepipe ban on Friday 29th June. The ban has now been removed.

If you have any concerns over any bans or drought orders, please contact your public water supplier who can help you with your water supply position and answer any questions.


We will keep you up to date with any new information as soon as it becomes available.

Sources of information: Environment Agency, Dove Associates and Water UK


Further sources of information:

Rainfall maps, water availability by region and current restrictions:

EA Water Situation Graphics July 2018.pdf


For Environment Agency Water situation monthly reports:  CLICK HERE

For Anvironment Agency weekly rainfall and river flow reports: CLICK HERE

For Environment Agency live river levels: CLICK HERE 

TUB Code of Practice, Water UK:

TUBS policy.pdf


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