After two of the driest winters on record water companies are introducing a hosepipe ban

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HOUSEHOLDS across the county will have to live with a hosepipe ban until at the least the end of the summer.

The water companies’ restrictions to be introduced on April 5 will mainly target domestic users. Customers will be prevented from using hosepipes for watering gardens, washing cars, patios and boats, and from filling swimming and paddling pools, ponds and fountains.

Anyone caught breaking the ban faces a £1,000 fine.

Five companies that supply the county are imposing the ban on the same day.

Southern Water, South East Water, Veolia Water South East, Thames Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, all say they are introducing the bans after the area became a drought zone last month.

The measures come after two of the driest winters on record. Experts say only heavy non-stop rain for weeks will ease the problem.

Veolia Water South East head of operations Gavin McHale said the ban was an essential move to conserve a scarce resource and help ensure a secure supply during what could be a continuing and severe drought.

He said: “In the Folkestone and Dover area we have no surface water from rivers or reservoirs to draw on and we rely on boreholes which take water from chalk and gravel aquifers. These natural aquifers need to be recharged each year during the autumn, winter and spring.

“Forecasts show the drought is likely to continue we need to move quickly to conserve our limited water resources.”

South East water says two of it key reservoirs at Ardingly in West Sussex and Bewl Reservoir in Lamberhurst, which it shares with Southern Water, are still below 50 per cent capacity.

The companies are urging all their customers to use water more wisely and local authorities have to develop plans to make plants in parks and gardens more resilient to drought.

A spokesman for Swale Borough Council said: “We have massively reduced our reliance on watering over recent years, cutting back on bedding and replacing with more sustainable planting such as shrubs, bulbs and herbacious plants. We do not have hanging baskets and have a very limited number of troughs and planters. Bedding is generally watered to establish rather than throughout the season.”

A garden sprinkler uses more than 1,000 litres of water an hour, enough to supply six people for a whole day.

Howard Davidson, Environment Agency south east regional director, said: “We will be watching to ensure water companies follow their drought plans, and expect them to demonstrate they are doing everything possible to reduce water demand including stepping up their publicity campaigns.”

The ban has been crticised by environmental groups and unions who say it is a sign of lack of long term planning in the water industry.

Graham Warren of Protect Kent said: “CPRE have consistently campaigned for a new wide-ranging water resource management strategy for the South East, incorporating sources of supply with the capacity to sustain Kent and the region as a whole under drought conditions, which records suggest to be of increasing frequency and duration.”

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