UK’s First Summer Hosepipe Ban Imposed As St Mary’s Water Levels Fall

desalination plant signThe first hosepipe ban of the summer in the UK is being imposed by the Council of the Isles of Scilly.

The authority, which has responsibility for supplying water on St Mary’s and Bryher, issued the notice yesterday and the temporary restrictions will last throughout August.

It means domestic water users will not be able to use hosepipes to water the garden, clean a car or boat, fill a paddling pool or garden pond, or clean windows.

Anyone caught could get a fine of up to £1,000.

Businesses are exempt from the restrictions, as are some people who are registered as disabled and the ban currently only affects St Mary’s

The Council said it’s being imposed because of an expected peak in visitor numbers this month.

But the authority’s own figures show that water consumption on St Mary’s has been generally falling for the past three years – a peak in 2010/11 was due to a serious undetected water leak in the system.

From Radio Scilly

Cllr Steve Sims, the Chairman of the General Purposes Committee, which looks after water services, alms to Radio Scilly…

Chairman of the General Purposes Committee, Cllr Steve Sims, told Radio Scilly that the exceptionally low water table is the main cause of the restrictions.

It’s down to a third of its usual level because of recent dry weather and low rainfall over winter.

Steve says there is no problem with the new desalination plant, although he admitted that iron pyrite contamination in the bore holes feeding it, which blocks the filters, means it has to be run at a reduced capacity.

The plant was installed at a cost of £500,000 last year and a further £40,000 spent to solve the filter problem.

In June, councillors were told it was costing an extra £20,000 each month to operate and Steve says running it at full capacity means “the costs mount.”

They’re working on a scheme to take water directly from the sea, but that could take several years to put in place, he says.

The Council's own figures published earlier this year show water use has been falling on St Mary's.

The Council’s own figures published earlier this year show water use has been falling on St Mary’s.

The current restrictions are about conserving the supply we have, says Steve, and he hopes people will show good will and abide by them.

He feels the usual rainfall will be sufficient to keep gardens watered and people “could go around with dusty cars for a bit.”

He says the Council always uses recycled water for it’s own public spaces although there are no plans to close Normandy Pool at the moment.

And he’s unsure how any sanctions would be enforced although he says the Council is prepared to take people to court if necessary.

In June, Council Chairman Amanda Martin called for the ‘water barometer’, which used to show water levels on the island in the 70s and 80s, to be brought back.

The Council is issuing posters asking people to conserve water by only using dishwashers and washing machines with a full load, and taking showers instead of baths.

It’s unclear when the restrictions will be lifted. Steve says the situation will be reviewed when there has been a significant improvement in the level of the water table.

He couldn’t say whether people would get a rebate on their water bill.

The recent Ash Futures economic strategy, commissioned by the Council, has recommended building up to 120 new homes on the islands by 2024. Steve says this isn’t Council policy yet and any plans would be dependent on the right infrastructure, including water, being in place.

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