Hosepipe ban for millions of customers called off after rainfall

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United Utilities has called off its planned hosepipe ban for millions of customers in the north west of England.

The company was due to bring in the restrictions on August 5 but said that slightly cooler temperatures, recent rainfall and water-saving efforts by customers had meant it did not need to introduce them at the moment.

But the firm warned there was still a possibility of restrictions if more rain did not arrive in the coming weeks.

And with the heatwave on the return in parts of the UK, water companies in other areas are also urging customers to conserve supplies.

Dr Martin Padley, water services director at United Utilities (UU), said:  “Given the improved position, helped by recent rainfall, we do not want to inconvenience customers unnecessarily at this time.

“However, the long-range forecast from the Met Office is one of relatively dry weather into the autumn, so future restrictions are still a possibility if more rain doesn’t arrive.”

The move appears to be an abrupt turnaround as on Wednesday night, the company was still insisting the hosepipe ban would start on Sunday.

Since the ban was announced last month, UU and the other privatised water companies have come under pressure over the way the industry is run and the amount of water they waste through leaks while making billions in profit.

UU has the second highest level of leaks, losing 133 litres per property per day in 2016/17, figures from water watchdog the Consumer Council for Water show.

Stuart Fegan, from the GMB, which represents around 1,000 engineers and technicians at UU, said the company must invest and fix infrastructure which led to the equivalent of 175 Olympic size swimming pools of treated water being lost each day.

“Unfortunately, past behaviour over the last 29 years suggests that private water companies are more than happy to accept fines from Ofwat rather than make the necessary investment in our water infrastructure to stop leaks.

“The bosses of England’s privatised water companies must sit up and take note of the public reaction to hose pipe bans while they make huge profits, pay their chief executives a fortune and have failed to sufficiently invest in our water infrastructure as promised,” he said.

Dr Padley insisted leakage teams were working 24 hours a day to find and repair as many leaks as possible.

And the company was making changes to operations including installing new pumping stations, pumping between reservoirs and bringing groundwater sources into use.

United Utilities announced the hosepipe ban as dry conditions saw reservoir levels drop (Peter Byrne/PA)
United Utilities announced the hosepipe ban as dry conditions saw reservoir levels drop (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Consumer Council for Water welcomed the hosepipe ban being called off.

Robert Light, northern chairman for the watchdog, said: “With more hot weather forecast, we’d encourage consumers to keep using water
wisely and there should be no let-up from United Utilities in its efforts to
reduce the amount of water being wasted through leaks.”

In the South East, Thames Water – which has the highest level of leaks – also called on customers to save water as temperatures looked set to soar to 30C again this weekend, pushing up demand for supplies.

Following a “drought summit” between farming leaders and officials on Wednesday, the Environment Agency said it would allow farmers more flexibility in taking water from rivers in the face of threats to crops and livestock.

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