Hosepipe bans: A distant memory

The first water-saving measures I can recall started around the time of the hot summer of 1976. There might well have been some before that, but if so, I don’t remember them. The long heatwave brought with it unfamiliar words to us Britons, like ‘drought.’ There were pictures of empty reservoirs on the news, and desperate measures were employed.

Hosepipe bans were brought in by the authorities in some areas. Slogans urged us to ‘bathe with a friend’, or to use showers instead of running a bath. TV programmes showed us how to put a brick into the toilet cistern, so as to use less water with each flush. Car washes were either closed, or forced to have restricted opening hours. We had dry gardens, dirty cars, and weak toilet flushes. Then it rained that September, and it all seemed to be forgotten for a while. A long while.

Next came the great Climate Change debate. The country would be like a desert soon, we were reliably informed, unless we all did something radical to conserve water. Public fountains were switched off, and new toilet cisterns supplied with two-stage flushes, to allow the option of saving water. Every summer, as soon as it was warm enough to shed a jumper, edgy water companies introduced hosepipe bans at the drop of a hat. Yet when it did rain, as it often did, little seemed to be done to save this precious fluid. New reservoirs were few and far between, mains water pipes leaked as much as they supplied, and millions of gallons were left to flow along the streets, off the fields, and down the hills.

I began to wonder why the water companies were not erecting vast containers to hold these deluges. Instead, they started to install water meters into all new houses. This proved more to be profitable than actually saving the water in the first place, as it fell free from the sky. We no longer enjoyed access to water and sewage at a flat rate, and had to start worrying about excess charges for using too much. As car owners became concerned about the extra water to wash their cars, numerous cheap hand-wash companies set up all over the place, using everything from abandoned petrol stations, to supermarket car parks. Who was paying for all the water that they used? I wondered.

Sales of water butts reached new heights, as dedicated gardeners feared for their plants and lawns. Other water-saving products arrived on a monthly basis; from ‘seeping’ hose-based watering systems, to inflatable bags that could be placed in toilets. Water was a hot topic, and as soon as summer loomed, panic would set in. Of course, wealthy people remained unconcerned. They used as much as they needed, and paid the charges with impunity. In poorer households, people did actually bathe together, and washed their clothes less too. Hard to believe, I know. I even knew some comfortably-off people who only flushed their toilet ‘when necessary’ and asked visitors to do the same.

So, did all these measures save water? It would appear that the answer to that is ‘No’. When we bought this house, in the summer of 2011, we received a note from the water company. They advised us that charges were to increase soon, and that if the weather remained warm, a hosepipe ban would follow. They were going to increase the charges for the water we would not be allowed to use. We used the water butt, later buying a new one with a stand and a tap, to make life easier. But we needn’t have worried, as it soon started to rain. Then it rained a lot more. There was no update on the hosepipe ban, and there hasn’t been one since. Despite almost daily precipitation for the last four years, the water charges keep creeping up. They now need the increase to replace ‘old pipes’, apparently. The Climate Change soothsayers have now decided that the rain is what we can expect from all that Global Warming. What happened to those ‘English Deserts’ then? I’m confused.

We no longer have to use the hose on the lawn. In fact, we never have had to. The water butt has to be emptied to stop it flooding the patio, and the water poured into ground that is already sodden by constant rain. I don’t even bother to wash the car anymore, as rain and mud will spoil it within a day anyway. And there has been no mention of those hosepipe bans at all.
Funny that.

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20 thoughts on “Hosepipe bans: A distant memory

  1. Ha ha. Here in the SW, we were one of the last areas of the country to be threatened with a hosepipe ban in 2012. It finally came at the end of a very dry March and followed a report on how the Somerset Levels were drying out and how steps needed to be taken to help them retain water. ‘Hmmm,’ I thought to myself. ‘It will rain eventually. It always does.’ Within a week (if not the very next day), it had started.

    By the following November, the floods were creeping over the Levels… and took several weeks to go down. ‘An exceptional event,’ they said. ‘To be expected once every 100 years or so,’ they said. ‘It won’t happen again,’ they said. So the following winter they had to get pumps in from the Netherlands… and it still took weeks for the water to go down.

    As you say, the ‘drought’ lobby has fallen strangely silent since. Instead, they are dredging the rivers. So… um… I would think we’re about due for another dry spell… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  2. Oh my goodness what a great post you made here. Boy oh boy I could get on the same train as you about the water meters.

    A few years back they began installing these blasted contraptions in all of the homes in the city.

    One good thing if we took the time (which I did) was watch the consumption monthly at a site where you could see just how much you were using, before they began charging us all for every drop.

    They wanted all of the meters installed before the new bills came out. Oh my they were saying if you watch your usage your bill will probably be less than they were charging before the meters.

    What a joke that was in the end… So, what does a widow woman on a fixed income do ? She marches down to her local hardware store and buys herself one of those fancy portable toilets folks use on camping trips…

    Which worked out great since the issues with my knees are troublesome at times.. I have no washroom on the main level and there are thirteen stairs to the upper and lower (basement) levels where this is a washroom….made a world of difference and I probably wouldn’t have thought to buy a portable thingy before the talk about the water meters… So, in closing there is always something good out of something bad…

    Take care,

    Laura

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  3. We are in the same boat, our front lawn which is North facing is permanently squelshy. I don’t think any of the climate change people can predict what will happen and when, they make lots of educated guesses and alway disagree.

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    1. I don’t think that they have a clue, FR. Just jumping on a bandwagon as usual, and changing their minds to suit prevailing conditions. I never forget that the Thames used to freeze in the 17th century!
      Regards from Norfolk, Pete.

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  4. Water is a big issue in Southern Nevada. Lake Mead provides 90% of our water. In recent years, the water level has dropped so much that a third intake pipe had to be built at a cost of $817 million. A third pumping station is planned to be operating by 2020. That will cost another $650 million. There is, of course, little chance that any significant rainfall here in the Mojave Desert could replenish Lake Mead’s water levels. The Colorado River drains the Rocky Mountains, so what’s really needed is a couple of winters of hefty snowfall.

    As for the cost of water usage, the Las Vegas Valley Water District uses tier level rates. The more you use, the more you pay. The widespread use of xeriscaping results in minimum outside water usage, but some people do have small lawns and/or thirsty plants that require watering. They can hand water as often as they like, but if they use a sprinkler system they must abide by a strict watering schedule. In my neighborhood, we do have small front yard lawns. The dues we pay to the homeowner’s association covers lawn care (mowing; sprinkler systems). Most people, myself included, have xeriscaped back yards.

    The people who live in Las Vegas generally tend to keep their cars washed. As for me, I go for years at a time without washing my vehicle, as I like to off-road in the desert now and then. Most people, like me, also drink bottled water rather than tap water. The bottled water generally comes from sources in Southern California.

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