Desperate, Drought-Stricken Brits Are Digging Wells

London, England

Photo: Getty Images Ltd. From 100 Places to Go Before They Disappear, published by Abrams.

Home owners are digging boreholes on their land to get around the hosepipe ban, with reports of increasing demands for alternative sources of water.Most houses in England are built on layers of water-storing rock such as chalk or limestone, and with drought affecting 35 million people, many are trying to tap the supplies beneath their homes.

There are about 40,000 private water supplies in Britain, serving one million homes, and the number is rising. Since the 1990s, it has been possible to draw water from a private borehole without a licence as long as it is limited to no more than 4,000 gallons a day.

A borehole system costs about £3,000 if the water is easily accessible, although most are more likely to be £10,000.

Tony Brown, who runs A G Brown Drilling in Haverhill, Suffolk, said: “It’s a busy time anyway, but we have had double the amount of inquiries to normal.

“As soon as the drought is mentioned it focuses people’s minds. People don’t want to see their gardens wither.”

Simon Allen, the managing director of Back Garden Boreholes, based in Sudbury, said his firm was experiencing its highest rate of orders. “People are more aware that you can obtain a water supply from the ground without a licence these days and for that reason it is becoming much more popular, especially now there is a hosepipe ban,” he said.

Experts warned that taking water from stores in the ground still had an impact on supply, as it maintained reservoirs, rivers and aquifers used by the mains. James Bertin of the Environment Agency said: “We would urge everyone to consider wise use of this precious resource, particularly in areas hit by drought, as water taken from such sources could reduce spring flows and water available for public supplies and the wider natural environment affecting everyone. The quantity needed to run a sprinkler for an hour is enough to supply two families of four for a day.”

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