A man walks in Greenwich Park, London, August 14, 2022. On August 17, Thames Water said a temporary usage ban covering London and the Thames Valley would begin next week.
Dominique Lipinski | Pictures PA | Getty Images
LONDON — Britain’s Thames Water said on Wednesday a temporary ban on use covering London and the Thames Valley would begin next week, citing “unprecedented weather conditions”.
The ban is set to come into effect on August 24. “Domestic customers should not use garden hoses to clean cars, water gardens or yards, fill paddling pools and swimming pools, and clean windows,” the utility said.
Explaining its decision, the company – one of several in England and Wales to announce water use limits in recent weeks – said extreme temperatures and a heatwave this summer had led to the highest demand for water for more than 25 years.
“The driest July since 1885, the hottest temperatures on record and the River Thames reaching its lowest level since 2005 has led to lower reservoir levels in the Thames Valley and London,” said he declared.
The TUB does not apply to businesses, although Thames Water said it asked those in its area “to be drought aware and to use water wisely”.
This could involve companies turning off water points on their premises and not washing their vehicles, he suggested.
“Implementing a temporary use ban for our customers was a very difficult decision to make and one that we did not take lightly,” said Sarah Bentley, CEO of Thames Water.
“After months of below-average rainfall and recent extreme temperatures in July and August, our region’s water resources are depleted,” Bentley added.
The announcement of the ban comes at a time when many water companies are facing criticism over leaks in their pipes. For its part, Thames Water said its teams were focused on locating and fixing more than 1,100 leaks a week.
Regarding the enforcement of the ban, the company said it hopes and expects customers to continue to use water wisely.
“If we learn of customers ignoring the restrictions, we will contact them to make sure they know the rules and how to use water responsibly and wisely,” he added.
“There are criminal offenses for those who repeatedly ignore requests to comply with the ban.”
Heat and dryness
Last month, temperatures in the UK rose, with highs of over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded for the first time.
On August 12, the UK Environment Agency announced that parts of England had been upgraded to drought status.
“In drought-affected areas, the public and businesses should be very alert to pressures on water resources and should use water wisely,” authorities said.
They added that the government expected water companies to “act to reduce leaks and repair leaky pipes as quickly as possible and take broader action alongside government policy.”
The UK is not alone when it comes to drought-related issues. On July 18, the Joint Research Center of the European Commission published a report on the drought in Europe.
“The severe drought that has affected several parts of Europe since the beginning of the year continues to spread and worsen,” he said.
“The dry conditions are linked to a significant and persistent lack of precipitation combined with early heat waves in May and June.”
In an interview with CNBC earlier this week, Bill Hare, CEO and senior research scientist at nonprofit Climate Analytics, explained how current conditions are having large-scale effects.
“When it comes to water supply, it’s clear that in the UK and other parts of Europe we are already seeing very significant water stress which is starting to affect…ordinary city dwellers, not just farmers,” he said.
“We see the lack of availability of cooling water for thermal, nuclear or coal-fired power plants, which leads to a reduction in electricity,” Hare said, speaking to CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche.
“It’s a problem we see all over the world,” he added. “We also see problems, for example in Germany, now in the Danube region, with low water flow, which means that you can no longer transport goods.”
This was in turn, “having great implications not just for energy transportation, but for agriculture, all kinds of industrial products and so on.”