Industry leaders have reacted with dismay after one water company backtracked on a pledge to exempt newly laid turf from its hosepipe ban and a second, understood to have reached a deal, said it was still in consultation.
They spoke out after South East Water did a U-turn last week on an agreement to exempt watering turf for 28 days after laying. This was followed by Southern Water saying no deal was on the cards, The firms are just two of seven that announced bans starting today (5 April).
The HTA said: "We are disappointed that South East Water will no longer grant a concession to newly laid turf for 28 days. Water companies need to provide consistency of message to the nation's 20 million gardeners.
"We will continue to fight the cause for landscapers on this issue - directly to water companies this week, to MPs in the affected regions and directly to the responsible Government ministers."
Turfgrass Growers Association chief executive Tim Mudge said: "We are still in talks with the water firms and will not be encouraging people to break the hosepipe ban, which would be irresponsible. We will address situations as they arise."
Ground Control national group training manager and BALI technical director Neil Huck: said: "It's very serious. We will seek compensation from water firms if landscapes die. If it goes on, landscapes will be suspended, which will affect nurseries, and contracting staff may have to be laid off."
Garden designer Adam Woolcott had to cancel £6,000 of fruit trees for a private garden because the client panicked about the ban. John Wyer, a partner at Bowles & Wyer, said: "The landscape industry is part of the solution.
"We've had no indication from Thames Water how the industry will be affected but you would have thought since the last ban they would have clearer guidelines. Large-scale landscapes where irrigation systems are not feasible will suffer badly."
Bob Ivison, a consultant with the National Contractors Forum, has drafted a model letter that he is urging members to use to lobby water firms for exemptions.
"Without hosepipes, many companies will have no option but to cease operations and lay people off," it says. "This kind of a repeated financial hit will bring our companies to financial ruin."