Everything you need to know about the hosepipe ban

Seven million people in the north west of England are facing a hosepipe ban amid what has been described as the longest heatwave since 1976.

Here are some of the key questions answered about what it all means.

A temporary hosepipe ban restricts people from using hosepipes or sprinklers to water private gardens or wash cars.

A temporary hosepipe ban restricts people from using hosepipes or sprinklers to water private gardens or wash cars.

What am I not allowed to do during a hosepipe ban?

A temporary hosepipe ban restricts people from using hosepipes or sprinklers to water private gardens or wash cars.

According to the Water Use (Temporary Bans) Order 2010, using a hose to clean a private boat, to fill a domestic swimming or paddling pool or pond, or to clean walls, windows, paths or patios of a domestic property is also banned.

Each local water company can decide whether certain activities are exempt.

People can still use a watering can to water their gardens, and can wash their cars using a bucket and sponge.

During a ban, people are also encouraged to think of ways to save water - for example by taking shorter showers or turning off taps while brushing their teeth.

Who does the ban apply to?

The ban, due to come into effect on Sunday August 5, applies to domestic customers in the north west of England who get their water supply from United Utilities.

Customers in Carlisle and the north Eden Valley are exempt, as water levels in those areas remain at reasonable levels.

In Northern Ireland, a hosepipe ban was introduced at the end of June owing to increased demand.

Water companies elsewhere say they have no plans to introduce bans of their own, but have urged customers to continue to do their bit in conserving water during the dry spell.

What can hosepipes still be used for during the ban?

Exemptions to the ban can include using a hose for "health and safety reasons", such as removing or minimising any risk to human or animal health or safety, or preventing or controlling the spread of disease.

People can also still fill a home birthing pool, clean graffiti off public buildings or fill water troughs for animals.

What could happen if I flout the ban?

Utility firms encourage people report anyone they think has been breaking a hosepipe ban.

Anyone found guilty can be prosecuted in a criminal court and fined up to £1,000.

How long will the ban last?

Water companies can introduce a hosepipe ban for as long as they deem necessary.