Dry weather leads to water company concerns

Water companies say householders should be careful with their water use to avoid up to 50 per cent surges in demand, because of increased showers and lawn watering.

But hosepipe bans are not expected despite mid July seeing the first heatwave in the UK for seven years, while the month is expected to be one of the driest Julys for 300 years. Just 4mm of rain has fallen in England and wales this month, half the record low for July of 8mm.

Severn Trent Water are asking their customers not to use hosepipes and sprinklers overnight.

Marcus O’Kane, water resources manager for Severn Trent, said of 13-14 July: "Last weekend, in addition to what our customers would normally use, we supplied an extra 350 million litres of water."

Severn Trent say that gardeners shouldn’t worry about the condition of their lawns as "watering established lawns is not only wasteful and unnecessary, but can cause many common lawn problems".

Severn Trent have emphasised their policy on hosepipe/sprinkler use: "If you choose to use a garden sprinkler or other automatic garden watering devices you must have a meter fitted. This is because these devices can use more water in an hour than a family of four does in two days. Plus, if you use a sprinkler during hot, dry weather, demand can soar and affect supplies to other customers."

But the Turfgrass Growers Association chief executive Tim Mudge said: "Our message to homeowners is not to worry if your lawn goes brown during the summer. Going brown is the natural survival mechanism of grass. When water is in short supply grass responds by shutting down. The brown colour shows that it has stopped growing until more favourable conditions return. Grass is remarkably resilient, and as long as you follow a few basic rules, most lawns will recover completely when the rain finally arrives."

• Increase your mowing height to 35-40mm – this creates deeper roots and more shade and shelter from higher temperatures
• Try not to concentrate wear in one place – move barbeques and toys such as slides around
• No need to feed as grass will not be growing during hot, dry weather
• Avoid blanket weedkillers as these may damage the grass – use a spot weedkiller if necessary
• Keep mower blades sharp as blunt blades bruise the grass leaf and it loses more water
• Apply a light dressing of compost to help keep moisture in the soil and protect the grass from higher temperatures
• Scarify your lawn once a year to remove matted and dead growth – if allowed to build up this acts as a barrier to rainfall

Bookmaker Coral has shortened the odds of a hosepipe ban anywhere in the UK from 8/1 to 4/1 .

A hosepipe ban this year still remains unlikely though as both water companies and the Environment Agency have repeatedly stated. Any shortage of rain this summer would need to be followed by a dry winter to raise the possibility of a hosepipe ban next year, but water stocks are average for this time of year after the second westtest year on record in 2012.


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