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Gardeners are to be allowed to use drip irrigation for the first time during hosepipe bans.

Up to 20 million homes in central and southern Britain will be forbidden from using hosepipes from 5 April, following two years of below-average rainfall.

Watering with a hose is banned in much of central and southern England

Under traditional hose ban rules, anyone caught using mains water through a hose to water plants or wash cars risks a fine of up to £1,000.

But in a landmark victory, a campaign by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) means gardeners in all seven hosepipe ban regions (see end of story for details) will be able to use leaky-pipe systems to keep parched plots alive.

“It is great news for gardeners and the garden industry and a major step forward from 2006 when both were severely impacted by blanket hosepipe bans,” said the HTA’s Tim Briercliffe.

“For consistency of message, and to help embed long-term water efficiency in the minds of the nation’s gardeners, we are urging the remaining water companies to follow suit.”

During the drought of 2006, gardeners hit out at outdated hose ban rules that allowed people to fill swimming pools but prohibited watering of gardens with a hose.

The HTA’s Tim summed up: “Used correctly, drip irrigation is water efficient and there is evidence from other countries that its use contributes positively to the water-saving effort. This will allow the nation to carry on gardening this spring and summer.”

Hosepipe bans can have a devastating impact on garden centres and nurseries, often leading to sales falls of 20 per cent, as people are put off gardening during drought.

WHICH WATER COMPANIES HAVE HOSE BANS FROM 5 APRIL?

  • Southern Water
  • South East Water
  • Thames Water
  • Sutton & East Surrey Water
  • Anglian Water
  • Veolia Central
  • Veolia South East