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21 May 2012, Water companies grant 28 day exemption for newly laid turf laid by professionals

The seven water companies which imposed 'hosepipe bans' from 5th April have granted a new 28-day exemption for newly laid turf and plants carried out by professional landscapers.

Thames Water's sustainability director, Richard Aylard, said "Our restrictions have caused real difficulties for some gardening businesses, so we are relieved to be in a position to take this step, which will enable them to carry on designing, landscaping, maintaining and building new features and gardens, while safeguarding their livelihoods and those of their employees.

"From today they will be able to water where necessary to get new gardens, lawns and plants established, and their clients will be able to continue this for up to 28 days."

They have agreed Codes of Practice with the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL), the Turfgrass Growers Association (TGA) and other landscape trade bodies to ensure that the minimum amount of water is used, and as wisely as possible.

Thames Water continues to monitor the situation very carefully, while continuing to plan for the possibility of a third dry winter in a row. The company plans to update its customers early in June.

"When we imposed the hosepipe ban in April after the two driest years ever in our region and without knowing how long it would stay dry, we were preparing for the worst while of course hoping for the best," added Mr Aylard.

"Since then the heavens have opened and stayed open. But while the topsy-turvy British weather – record downpours after a record dry spell - has been working in our favour lately, we need to see how much water gets deep underground where we need it for what could still be a hot-dry summer. We will lift the ban completely as soon as we can.

"In normal years, when good winter rainfall seeps into the ground, the groundwater provides the ‘base flow’ in our rivers throughout the rest of the year. But after two dry winters, we currently do not have that safety net, so until the groundwater recovers, our water resources remain finely balanced, which is why our Temporary Use Ban must remain in place for the time being and why we must continue to use water wisely.

"And today’s decision should help. Grass is often laid as an alternative to concrete or tarmac, which reduces natural drainage and groundwater recharge, so the more grass the better."

Tim Mudge, chief executive of the TGA, said: "We’re pleased that the water companies have recognised the important role turf plays in helping replenish our water supplies. The turf industry has already been hit hard by the ‘hosepipe ban’, with our members reporting a number of redundancies and reductions in sales of up to 60%.

"We hope the exemption will improve the situation as people begin to buy and lay turf again. Working alongside water companies and other trade bodies, we will continue to advocate the responsible use of water in the garden."

While gardening businesses are now exempt, the hosepipe ban remains in force for the rest of Thames Water's 8.8m customers, who are urged to continue to use water wisely.