UK WATER UPDATE

this update is for landscape contractor members who may work in an area where the introduction of a temporary user ban (hosepipe ban) will impact the way they can support and maintain gardens where the watering of newly planted material or the support of established material is needed.

Landscape 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.

The dry period we are experiencing may well interrupt the supply of water for landscaping work.   With an increase of a 20% demand for water in the week rising to 30% at the weekends a strain has been placed on the underground network.  United Utilities have repaired more leaks in June and July this year than they would normally have in a year.  

A period of consultation prior to a ban coming into force includes the publishing of two local papers, on their web site and in the London Gazette as to the date the ban will be brought in.  The period of notification is usually up to two weeks in advance but not necessarily that long. 

A full text of the Code of Practice signed up by the Water Companies points out the exemptions to the ban and this can be downloaded here

The main points should be understood to avoid members getting into difficulties with the water companies.  Under several pieces of government legislation water companies have the powers during

Enforcement

TUBs to enforce the legislation and bring them to court for fines, which can be as high as £1,000. 

The following activities are the only ones that can be enforced during a TUBs where a hose pipe is used:

  1. watering a garden using a hosepipe;
  2. cleaning a private motor-vehicle using a hosepipe;
  3. watering plants on domestic or other non-commercial premises using a hosepipe;
  4. cleaning a private leisure boat using a hosepipe;
  5. filling or maintaining a domestic swimming or paddling pool;
  6. drawing water, using a hosepipe, for domestic recreational use;
  7. filling or maintaining a domestic pond using a hosepipe;
  8. filling or maintaining an ornamental fountain;
  9. cleaning walls, or windows, of domestic premises using a hosepipe;
  10. cleaning paths or patios using a hosepipe;
  11. cleaning other artificial outdoor surfaces using a hosepipe.”

Exceptions

There are three levels of exception that can apply to plant watering by hose pipe during the period of the ban. 

Statutory Exceptions: these are activities/water uses specified in the legislation which are exempt from TUB restrictions and for which customers do not need to make representation to obtain permission;

  1. These relate to health & safety and reducing the risk to human and animal health. 

Discretionary Universal Exceptions: these are activities / water uses not covered by a statutory exception but for which signatories to the Drought Code of Practice have agreed to grant an exception for which customers do not need to make representation to obtain permission;

  1. Blue badge holders can use a hose pipe with a trigger gun.  This includes a commercial company who is working on the domestic garden of a blue badge holder.  Water companies can stipulate that the blue badge holder must be resident during the watering operation. 
  2. Use of an approved drip or trickle irrigation watering system which is fitted with a pressure reducing valve and timer.

Discretionary Concessional Exceptions: these are activities/water uses not covered by a statutory exception, but for which an individual water company offers an exception for which customers must first make representation to obtain permission.

  1. Customers on the company’s Vulnerable Customers List who have mobility issues but are not in possession of a Blue Badge;
  2. Watering of food crops at domestic premises or private allotments
  3. The watering of newly laid turf for a specified period, usually 14 days.  Established turf (over 28 days old) cannot be watered;
  4. The watering of newly bought plant for a period of 14 days from purchase
  5. To prevent or control the spread of non-native and/or invasive species.

Place of work

A landscape contractor is a commercial business but when working in a domestic garden they are bound by the terms of TUB in place.  For new plantings they can use the hose pipe of the domestic garden for a period of two weeks after planting only.

Water can be brought in by bowser or IBC and used to water the garden at any time, but the filling of the bowser or IBC must be done with water from either a bore hole or river in in the TUB area or from mains water outside the TUB area. 

Parks and gardens owned by public authorities are not classified as commercial businesses and are subject to TUBs.  Parks and gardens that charge for entry are classified as a commercial business and are covered by the Discretionary Universal Exceptions. 

Mains water supply company

With the introduction of an open market for commercial water supply the company that charges you for water may not be the company that is implementing a TUB.  For example, a garden centre in Lancashire would be in a current TUB area but could be billed by Wave (Anglian Water).  You would be notified of a TUB by the water supply company United Utilities and by your water billing company Wave.  When making a request for an exceptional use you need to contact the water supply company not the billing company.

Hydrant licence

As a commercial company a landscape contractor can apply to a water supply company for a hydrant licence.  This would enable you to fill a container with mains water from a road hydrant.  In the event of a TUB you can request an exception for specific situations. 

Area of work

A landscape contractor may well come from an area that is not in a TUB but carry out work in a TUB area.  In this situation the rules of the area of work are to be followed. 

Forward thinking in respect of TUBs should be given when drawing up contracts.  Build into your contract, provision for the non-availability of water and any contingency measures that might require.

Landscape Design

The Tree Design Action Group have a document you can download that categorises trees according to their water demands.  This helps in specifying trees to suit landscapes that may have water shortages. 

https://www.myerscough.ac.uk/media/4052/hirons-and-sjoman-2018-tdag-tree-species-selection-1-1.pdf

Summary

Most exceptions to TUBs are discretionary by the water company.  You must check with your water supply company that you can operate under the exception, they are not automatically granted. 

If you have a problem that requires a hose pipe to water plants, you can contact your water supply company and ask if they will grant you an exception for your problem area.  They are often understanding.   

Commercial landscape contractors working in a domestic garden cannot water the plants from the garden tap for more than 2 weeks after planting. Permission must be obtained first.

Water can be brought into a garden by IBC or bowser but must not be from the mains within the TUBs area.  It can be from a bore hole or river.  Water from the mains outside the TUBs area can be brought in. 

Landscape contractors can apply for a hydrant licence to fill containers for hand watering. 

Garden centres, nurseries and landscape contractor works can use a hose pipe under the exceptions to water plants at their own premises. 

Gardens that charge for entry are classified at commercial premises and can operate under an exception.  Public owned gardens do not.

Domestic gardens can operate a drip irrigation system fitted with a pressure regulating valve and timer. 

Blue badge holders can use a hose pipe with a trigger gun. 

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