Water firms promise a more consistent message on bans

Meeting between industry leaders creates better communication

Water companies have promised to improve their communication with the garden industry following complaints of misinformation regarding hosepipe bans. The HTA met representatives of the Environment Agency and water firms including Thames, Three Valleys and Southern Water last week. They discussed the companies’ poor communication with gardeners about what restrictions bans bring. Issues raised were to be presented to DEFRA secretary of state Margaret Beckett on 19 April. HTA representative Erica Harper said: “Water companies are very concerned about the publicity they are getting. We’re talking very positively about changes.” She added that such changes included better, more consistent communications. One company told a customer they could not attach a hose to a water butt. Harper said: “They are not briefing their staff properly. It’s in their interest to give out cloudy knowledge.” Thames Water representative Robin Markwell said water firms decided at the meeting to lobby the Government to change hosepipe legislation. He said it was 50 years old and did not take into account the use of power washers, domestic swimming pools and micro irrigation. He added: “The wording does give rise to discrepancies. It doesn’t reflect modern life.” He said water companies and the HTA would work to promote water-saving methods such as mulch and slow-release composts. The HTA has called for: * Consultation with the garden industry before announcing bans. * A clearly signposted consultation method for agreeing the ending or escalation of a ban. * Removal of anomalies within the legislation, such as allowing private swimming pools to be filled. * Exemption from an initial ban for professional landscapers and gardeners. * Exemption for the use of drippers and timed watering systems.

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