Seven water companies across South-East England have recently implemented hosepipe bans which are impacting many boaters in these areas. Southern Water, Anglian Water, South East Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Water Central, Veolia Water South East and Thames Water have all implemented bans from the 05 April 2012.

What does this mean for boaters?  

"Most water companies have excluded non-domestic water use from their hosepipe bans so if your boat is kept in a marina or at a club with a non-domestic water supply then hosepipe bans may not apply. If so, you can continue to wash your boat down and flush outboard engines through using a hosepipe. Nevertheless, you may wish to think about ways in which you can limit your water use," explains RYA Planning and Environmental Advisor Caroline Price.  

"However, boaters use hosepipes at home quite a lot in the normal course of maintenance and general upkeep and it is likely that many of us are going to need to find another way of doing things for a while," she continues.    

What about Check, Clean, Dry?  

 Defra's Check, Clean, Dry campaign advises boaters to wash down their boats to minimize the spread of non-native alien species. In recognition of the importance of biosecurity for the UK the water companies have made a general exemption for this activity to continue provided the wash down takes place before leaving the water body and preferably makes use of a commercial water supply.  

Anglian Water have been particularly clear on this point due to the great efforts that have gone in at Grafham.    

What about exemptions?  

The legislation specifically provides that using a hosepipe to clean a private pleasure boat for health or safety reasons is not prohibited under a hosepipe ban.  

'Health or safety reasons' is defined as including 'removing or minimising any risk to human or animal health or safety' and 'preventing or controlling the spread of causative agents of disease.'  

Whilst this exemption would allow boaters to use a hosepipe to clean decks to remove slippery substances that make it unsafe to move around the boat, it is not clear as to the extent to which this definition of 'health or safety reasons' extends to routine boat maintenance such as flushing through an outboard engine  

The legislation also allows water companies to grant exemptions on an individual basis but our understanding from the various water companies we have spoken to is that such exemptions will not be granted where there is a reasonable alternative to using a hosepipe.  

The drought conditions are considered to present a serious threat to the domestic water supply and as such exemptions will only be granted in a limited range of circumstances.    

Is the RYA doing anything to challenge the ban?  

It appears that some of the consequences of the legislation around hosepipe bans (for example, the use of hosepipes to flush through outboard engines as part of routine maintenance) had not been anticipated by legislators and the RYA are raising this through the Government's Red Tape Challenge.  

We will be encouraging Ministers to review the existing rules and think carefully about how the legislation can be improved.  We are also speaking with all the water companies and with Water UK in order to gain clarification on how they interpret the legislation and in an effort to ensure consistency of application. 

However, the restrictions on domestic water use are linked to the concerns over a potential shortfall in supply in the absence of significant rain. While the hosepipe ban will undoubtedly be inconvenient for boaters, the RYA is confident that boaters recognise that water needs to be conserved wherever reasonably possible.  

"We would therefore advise all boaters to observe the ban on the domestic use of hosepipes and try to reduce their use of fresh water for non-essential purposes. Breaching the ban is a criminal offence and successful prosecution could result in a fine," Caroline concludes.  

RYA would advise all boaters to check the relevant water companies website for details on what activities are not permitted under the hosepipe ban or alternatively go to The Hosepipe Ban website.  

If you are unsure whether the hosepipe ban applies to your club then you should contact your water company.  

Sport England have issued guidance to clubs on how to cope with the drought conditions which can be downloaded here