Thames Water and six other water companies in southern and eastern England have imposed hosepipe bans – but keen gardener Alison Brown can carry on regardless. Like an increasing number of homeowners, she has a plentiful supply of clean, free water from a borehole in her garden. As the water companies focus increasingly on profits and the quality of the water continues to fall, anyone with a garden could consider providing their own household water by digging a well or borehole as it is known in the UK.
The past 18 months have been the driest on record, while water bills continue to rise – with increases averaging 5.7 per cent this year in the UK. But while other gardeners face a summer of parched lawns and wilting blooms, beneath a pocket-size drain cover in her Kent garden Alison has had a borehole drilled that taps into water lying only six metres below the surface. From this she receives a supply of safe, constant water – completely free.
The decision to seek a personal water supply was made last summer when her village, Yalding, was the subject of a hosepipe ban. “We have a walled Victorian vegetable garden,” explains Alison, 42. “And we were spending a couple of hours every other day trying to water it with cans – it was taking so much time, we decided to look into getting another supply.” She and her husband Colin, 60, along with their 16-year-old son Jonathan, live in a low-lying area close to the water table so they only needed a relatively shallow borehole. They also knew that their house had a well in Victorian times.
They hired South Eastern Drilling Services () to do the work. “It only took a day,” says Alison. “They brought a rig in like something out of Dallas and just drilled down.”
The borehole is unobtrusive and the project cost about £1,500, though prices vary depending on the type of rock that must be drilled through and the depth of the water table. Typical prices are £4,000 to £5,000, and can rise to £15,000 if you want a household supply.
At the moment Alison only uses the water for her garden but expects this to reduce her metered water bills sufficiently to cover her costs in a few years. The only ongoing cost of their borehole is the electricity to run the pump.
Alison is allowed to draw up to 20,000 litres of water a day before she would require a licence. The average household uses 150 litres daily. Boreholes do attract some critics though, who argue that the limit is too high.
HOW EASY IS IT?
Sonny Worrall, of South Eastern Drilling Services, says the depth of the borehole depends on the geography of each area.
Phil Boardman, from Synergy Boreholes, began his career drilling for oil and gas. “What really surprised me when I started doing water boreholes was how easy it was,” he says.
To provide your home with a private water supply, the first step is to get a hydro-geology report that will tell you how deep you will have to drill. Once you have hit water the borehole must be lined, a filtration system and pump installed and – if you plan to hook the water up indoors – it must be tested.
“For farmers it’s definitely worthwhile because they spend £15,000 a year on water bills” Mr Boardman says. The Well Drillers Association (welldrillers.org) offers advice to consumers interested in having their own water supply.
Back in Yalding, Alison remains delighted. “I can water my plants as much as I like – and it is all free.”
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