Immunity sought by tree officers on water bans

London Tree Officers Association lobbies water suppliers for exemption to safeguard young trees.

Street trees: guidance document encourages sustainable irrigation - image: Weymouth Street
Street trees: guidance document encourages sustainable irrigation - image: Weymouth Street

Watering young trees should be exempt from temporary usage bans, the London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) has said. It has written to water suppliers asking for tree watering to be included in their list of exemptions from such bans in future.

But it also wants to see tree managers irrigate responsibly and has issued a guidance document Sustainable Water Management to encourage best practice (see box).

LTOA chair Jake Tibbetts said: "We are determined to ensure that newly planted trees will not suffer as a result of future hosepipe bans. We are hoping that our document will help secure the future of London's trees."

The LTOA letter points out that water suppliers imposed watering bans just as newly-planted trees were coming into leaf in spring last year, due to drought conditions in London and the South East. But it claims that "fewer than six Olympic-sized swimming pools" of water is all that is required to irrigate London's young trees each year.

Failure to ensure that young trees establish would go against the Government's National Planning Policy Framework commitment to create and protect green infrastructure, it adds.

But the document also bemoans the fact that tree planting "is seemingly not promoted as part of the solution" to urban rainwater management.

Meanwhile, new British Standard BS8545 on establishing young trees is expected to be published later this year.

Guidance - Sustainable Water Management

The London Tree Officers Association guidance document recommends tree managers:

- Bear in mind likely irrigation requirements when planting.

- Consider using "grey" water and even water from swimming pools rather than potable water where possible.

- Collect and store rainwater for irrigation.

- Remove competing vegetation from the tree pit - or get local volunteers to do so.

- Avoid spillage during watering and while transporting water.

- Develop a water-management programme to maximise irrigation efficiency.

- Exchange experience of different watering methods with other tree managers.

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