The hosepipe ban brought in 10 days ago by state-owned provider Northern Ireland Water is not legal, the News Letter has revealed.
In the midst of the recent heatwave, Northern Irish residents were told that they would face a fine and a criminal record if caught using a domestic hosepipe in any capacity.
However, it has come to light that NI Water was referencing GB legislation, rather than the laws applying to Northern Ireland.
Why did NI Water implement an absolute hosepipe ban?
To combat water shortages, Northern Ireland Water implemented a hosepipe ban on 29 June, restricting the use of hoses for everything from washing windows to cleaning paths and filling swimming pools.
The water provider said that the ban was being imposed under Article 116 of the The Water and Sewerage Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.
However, this piece of legislation does not specifically prohibit the use of hosepipes to this extent, even during a period of drought.
It is thought that NI Water may have quoted from laws only applicable to England, Scotland and Wales when putting the ban in place.
Why does the hosepipe ban not apply to Northern Ireland?
Hosepipe ban legislation in Northern Ireland has not been brought in line with Great Britain, and only allows a ban on two activities: watering a garden and washing a private car.
In the absence of an Assembly at Stormont, the law can only be altered by Parliament.
The layout and language of the public notice circulated about the hosepipe ban had the appearance of an extract from legislation. However, the words are not taken from any law, and appear to have been written by NI Water staff.
What is NI Water saying now?
NI Water refuse to admit that it had gone beyond its legal powers, insisting that it was allowed to interpret the words “private garden” to include walls and windows, and that “private motor car” could include “leisure boats”.
When asked about the situation, NI Water told the News Letter it was “content that the prohibitions contained within the hosepipe ban notice are in line with Article 116”.
Can I legally use a hosepipe?
As there is still a need to conserve water in Northern Ireland, it is not advisable to use a hosepipe for any reason at your home.
If NI Water have quoted the law incorrectly in their hosepipe ban notifications, you may have grounds to fight any case raised against you, provided you used a hose for something other than watering a garden or washing a private car during the ban.