Water companies look at non-potable water to ease hosepipe ban pressure on landscapers

The seven water companies that have implemented hosepipe bans across the South and South East are to explore sources of non-potable water for use by landscapers following a 'summit' with the Horticultural Trades Association, British Association of Landscape Industries and the Turfgrass Growers Association held on Tuesday.

Thames Water is looking at sources of non-drinking water for use by landscapers - image: Morguefile
Thames Water is looking at sources of non-drinking water for use by landscapers - image: Morguefile

BALI warned contractors had seen contracts lost and costs rise sharply in the wake of the hosepipe ban and sought to outline the threat to landscaping firms posed by the ban.

The HTA has brought out a statement following the talks outlining the topics discussed and response from the water companies:

"The landscape industry has been calling for an exemption from the ban for professional landscapers, but as yet this has not been permitted by water companies. 

As a result of a constructive meeting, Thames Water and potentially other water companies, will explore ways to provide access to non-potable (not suitable for drinking) water for landscape businesses to help alleviate the immediate repercussions. 

Longer term, the landscape industry will look to establish a robust evidence base of its use of water efficient equipment and techniques to help demonstrate its responsible use of water at all times.

The water industry reaffirmed the severity of the current drought which has already reached historic levels in some areas. Long term weather forecasts predict that the drought is set to continue over the coming weeks and months. 

The seven water companies affected had therefore deliberated carefully on the options available to them now.

Whilst recognising the difficulty that hosepipe bans would cause the landscape industry, they had nevertheless reluctantly decided not to provide exemptions for professional landscapers to help achieve the water savings they need at this point of the drought cycle.

To help mitigate the situation, Thames Water has focussed significant effort on finding and providing access to non-potable water to landscapers in their region and will encourage other water companies to take similar action.

The landscape industry expressed disappointment that no apparent progress had been made by water companies since the drought of 2006 and that the landscape industry had been singled out again for disproportionate treatment.  This was despite the inclusion of suggested concessions for the landscape and turf industries written into the water industry’s Code of Practice for introducing temporary restrictions.

Furthermore, it seemed anomalous that the water companies are allowing car wash and window cleaning businesses to continue to use a hosepipe, but landscapers are precluded from doing so to water turf and plants on non-commercial sites.

The marginal increase in water usage in allowing exemptions for professional use would be small compared to general domestic reductions.

Professional landscapers are responsible users of water who can help embed longer-term behavioural change amongst their customers, though both industries agreed this would be easier to achieve if government incentives existed to encourage investment in water-efficient systems.

We will therefore work along-side the water companies to develop a robust case for water-efficient landscaping that will help protect landscape companies in times of water shortage, and to lobby government to incentivise investment in water-efficient schemes. 

This year’s hosepipe bans will have a significant financial impact on the landscape industry and the landscape representatives present at the meeting will continue to highlight these concerns to government.

It was noted in particular that tanking in non-potable water, and the use of drip irrigation systems, are not practical options for the turf industry in the majority of cases."

In the meantime, Severn Trent is set to to sell 30 million litres of water a day to Anglian Water, one of the seven companies that imposed a hosepipe ban last week, to help ease the shortage. According to the Daily Telegraph, the trade is expected to begin in June.

For more reaction and hosepipe ban updates see www.horticultureweek.co.uk/go/drought

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