A HOSEPIPE ban is set to come into force next month, water company United Utilities has announced.

The firm said the move comes after what is believed to be the longest heatwave since 1976 and will affect seven million customers in the north west of England.

The hosepipe ban, known as a Temporary Use Ban, will come into force on Sunday August 5.

The firm said before then customers can provide feedback if they believe they should be exempt.

The ban will apply to domestic customers who get their water supply from United Utilities, with the exception of customers in Carlisle and the north Eden Valley, where supplies remain at reasonable levels.

READ: Will car washes have to close during the ban? Your questions to United Utilities answered

Martin Padley, United Utilities water services director, said: "Despite some recent rainfall, reservoir levels are still lower than we would expect at this time of year and, with forecasters predicting a return to hot dry weather for the rest of July, we are now at a point where we will need to impose some temporary restrictions on customers.

"It is not a decision we have taken lightly and we are enormously grateful to customers for having helped reduce the demand on our network over the last couple of weeks, but unless we get a period of sustained rainfall before August 5 these restrictions will help us safeguard essential water supplies for longer."

The ban restricts the use of hosepipes or sprinklers for watering private gardens and washing private cars but customers will still be able to water their gardens with a watering can and wash their vehicles using a bucket and sponge, the firm said, which uses a fraction of the amount of water a hosepipe or sprinkler uses.

A hosepipe uses 540 litres an hour, as much as a family-of-four would use in one day, while a sprinkler left running overnight uses as much water as a family-of-four would use in one week, according to United Utilities.

A hosepipe ban can reduce water usage by 5-10%, according to research by United Kingdom Water Industry Research, which in the North West would amount to over 100 million litres per day.

United Utilities said the ban was alongside the company's efforts to maintain essential supplies, including maximising water abstraction from ground water supplies, moving water around its regional integrated network of pipes and running a campaign to encourage customers to use water wisely.

With the hosepipe ban for the north west, an agricultural expert said he is worried about the huge strain the heatwave is having on the region’s farming community.

Rob Matthews, of rural insurance specialists Lycetts, said record temperatures and a lack of rain in recent months is taking its toll on farmers, who are increasingly faced with animal welfare and crop failure concerns. 

He said: “Unfortunately, parched gardens and wilting plants are the least of farmers’ worries.

“We have not seen weather like this in decades, and although people up and down the country are basking in the sunshine and enjoying a break from the gloomy British summertime, I would urge them to spare a thought for the struggling farmers, who are growing increasingly desperate with every day.

“Today’s situation is the culmination of weather extremes.  A wet summer last year and the Beast from the East in the spring meant farmers were having to house and feed their cattle longer than usual. 

“Crop yields are down, at least 10 per cent, due to the dryness – crops stopped growing six weeks ago and farmers have only got one of the usual two or three cuts of silage.

“Combine this with the fact there is no grass for cows to graze and farmers are being forced to use their winter stocks – which are already low – to keep them going, and you have a very challenging six months ahead.   

“Farmers are being forced to buy in alternative feed – which drives up their overheads and affects their profits – or sell their livestock.  But with so many farmers in the same predicament, they don’t have the grass supplies to accommodate new cattle, creating a problem for the market.  It’s a vicious circle.”