BALI’s technical officer, Owen Baker gives his opinion on the possible affects a hosepipe ban could have on the landscape industry.
From my office window at BALI HQ, I can see the verges and open areas of grass are – for the first time in several years – parched and brown. The warm, dry weather has been uncharacteristically reliable and is a stark contrast to summers past.
It is easy to forget just how much rain the UK received during spring. Record-breaking levels of rainfall in March and April turned predictions of wide-spread hosepipe bans, given by the Environment Agency at the beginning of the year, on their head. The MET office reports areas of the Midlands and Devon and some eastern coastal towns received twice the normal amount of rainfall during March, with rain 119% of the UK average during April.
Thanks to rainfall earlier in the year most water companies have suggested temporary hosepipe restrictions are unlikely to be required this summer. And despite melodramatic headlines in national newspapers, water companies believe timely advice on saving water will be enough to preserve stocks for the duration of the summer.
How does a hosepipe ban affect the landscape industry?
Legislation surrounding drought measurement measures changed in 2010, with the introduction of two pieces of legislation – The Water Use (Temporary Bans) Order (2010), forming part of the broader Flood and Management Act (2010). The order grants water companies powers to prohibit domestic use of a hosepipe, but permits water use for tasks including the commercial growing of crops, fruit, vegetables or other plants, as well as on land used for national plant collections and temporary gardens or flower displays. It is worth noting the legislation allows suppliers to prohibit specific non-domestic uses if water reserves reach critical levels, so a call to the local supplier is worthwhile. In the past commercial water users have been exempted from usage restrictions, providing they adhere to guidance.
By law, water suppliers are required to notify users of any temporary use restrictions in two local newspapers and on their website. BALI members who travel between sites are advised to check with the host water authority as to the terms of the temporary use restriction if in any doubt. Disappointingly, there is no single website which lists nationwide temporary use orders or details of enforcements.
Water availability and its efficient use has come under scrutiny as the gap which exists between supply and demand increases, particularly in urban areas in the south of the UK. Whilst water suppliers have developed initiatives, responsibility must also rest on users’ efficiencies. Aside from changing domestic consumer behaviour, commercial users are increasingly being challenged to come up with ways of reducing and reusing sources. Waterwise, a UK based not-for-profit organisation, carries out research into initiatives which reduce water consumption. Their website contains a number of examples of how horticultural enterprises have reduced their water usage.
A RHS report, Gardening in a Changing Climate, investigates the impact of climate change on modern gardening, reinforces many of the theories first suggested in Gardening in the Global Green house: The impacts of Climate Change on Gardens in the UK (2002). Based on historic data, both reports predict UK rainfall is likely to vary year on year. However, whilst the south is likely to experience prolonged periods of low rainfall, particularly in the summer, the winter is likely to bring shorter periods of very high rainfall, particularly in the north of the UK.
Whilst both reports suggest fluctuations in rainfall frequency and temperature are likely to pose challenges to the wider landscape and horticulture industry, they are also keen to point out the forecasted changes represent an opportunity. Landscape professionals and suppliers can prepare themselves now as, whilst the causes of climate change continue to be debated, historic weather predictions have proved accurate.
BALI members may wish to improve their understanding of water conservation practices by undertaking further training via the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) website. The Certificate in Water Conservation, was developed by BALI in conjunction with the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL), Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG), Society of Garden Designers (SGD) and the Turfgrass Growers Association (TGA), as well as several water companies. The course can be completed on a computer in one hour, and covers planning, constructing, establishing and maintaining landscapes whilst using water as efficiently as possible.