Seven water companies across southern and eastern England are to introduce hosepipe bans amid drought conditions. However, for the first time it will now become an offence just to own a hosepipe.
A sliding scale of fines will be introduced, with serious or repeat offences attracting custodial sentences. The sale of hosepipes and hosepipe paraphernalia will also be banned under the new rules.
The lowest level of offence will be possession of a hosepipe or a functioning outside tap. Possession of hosepipe reels, connectors and nozzles will also be included in this category.
A more serious offence will be possession with intent to supply water. This will cover hosepipes left connected to an outdoor tap, but will also include a pipe connected to an indoor tap and passed through a window or door.
The highest level of offence will be the use of a hose in the commissioning of a dousing, or the possession of a Class A hosepipe - one that is installed into a garden for timed watering purposes. These offences will usually carry a custodial sentence, and will also mean that the perpetrator's details will be added to the Hosepipe Offenders' Register.
The new ban will also see watering equipment such as watering cans with a capacity greater than six litres and Super Soaker water pistols over 450mm long being reclassified as hosepipes.
A licensing system for exempt hosepipes is being brought in to cover the Fire Service, building trade and petrol pumps. All exempt hoses will be green and yellow in colour, and will be stamped with a unique reference number. The water companies have agreed to manage the register of exempt hosepipes, and will charge an annual licence fee of £300 per hose.
A hosepipe amnesty will operate until the end of April, allowing members of the public to turn in their hosepipes to their local police station for disposal. Then, from May 1st a new CrimeStoppers hosepipe hotline will open, and callers will be eligible for cash rewards for information leading to prosecution for hosepipe ownership. A photo of someone with a hose will be considered incriminating, but a particularly clean car, a full pond or a really green lawn will all be grounds for further investigation.
The complete ban on domestic hosepipe ownership is expected to have some additional effects. Water companies say that in addition to a lowering of the quantity of water used across the regions, they expect to see reductions in the number of car exhaust-related suicides, police suspect beatings and the illegal siphoning of fuel.