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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
The hosepipe that isn't
The Magazine answers...

Fill 'er up and off you go
Number 10 denies flouting the hosepipe ban, but its gardeners use something that looks suspiciously like one. So when is a hosepipe not a hosepipe?

"It may look like a hosepipe but it's not," insisted a spokesman for Number 10 when asked how the prime minister's rose garden was being kept in full bloom.

Reports are circulating that government gardeners are flouting the hosepipe ban which an estimated 13m other people in the south of England are having to observe.

But the spokesman insists that Downing Street is fully observing the ban, even though it's technically exempt because it is part of the Royal Parks.

Question mark
A regular feature in the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines

But when is something that looks suspiciously like a hosepipe not a hosepipe? When it's a bowser with a dowser.

Downing Street has invested in a portable container called a bowser. They come in a range of sizes, but No 10's holds six watering cans-worth of water. Its gardeners use it with a trigger-action douser for more accurate spraying, so it minimises waste.

Sponge bath

"It is not a way round the hosepipe ban, it is precisely a way of observing the hosepipe ban," says the spokesman.

Water bowser
Bowsers are used to transport water
"The objection to hosepipes is because they waste a lot of water because it goes all over the place. This is targeted. We don't water the bigger shrubs because they have deep roots."

In addition, the trigger mechanism on the water tank is powered by a 12 volt rechargeable battery "because it is greener". But officials admit the bowser is being filled up from an ordinary mains tap and not from a water butt.

Thames Water says it does not believe Downing Street is contravening the ban.

"Because the device isn't directly connected to the mains it is allowable," says a spokesman. "Because it's portable, it's acceptable."

Which means that bowser manufacturers are doing brisk business. Wendy Sinfield, of Main Ltd, says recent orders have come from stables at Newmarket, local authorities and keen gardeners. "I only took over the company last summer, and now everyone wants a bowser. May the sun continue to shine."

The Thames Water spokesman, also asked about reports that the front of the new Home Office building is to be hosed down, said public and commercial buildings were not subject to the ban. Though the water company would prefer that they used a bucket and a sponge.

Add your comments using the form below

I have a perfectly good hosepipe with a wonderful trigger-operated attachment that I can use to direct water exactly when and where I want it (in a variety of spray patterns or even single jet). My hosepipe doesn't need a battery nor does it need an engined-vehicle to move it around. Why would the water companies object to my environmentally-friendly and carefully-directed use of mains water?
Russell Collighan, Birmingham

If you read the water companies' exact meaning of a hosepipe ban, you'd be suprised by what is and isn't allowed. The bowser sounds like a great idea. Tony, maybe the next step is to get yourself some water butts.
Jo, Buckinghamshire

The "hosepipe" ban is a misnomer - what the water companies are driving at is "please stop wasting water by watering your gardens". They should call it a ban on watering gardens instead.
Sion Hughes, Northampton

So a rechargable battery is greener? It is less efficient than plugging in direct as chargers are not 100% efficient and therefore use more energy in the long term. Also, filling a tank from the mains and using an electric pump to water the garden is OK is it? I call it cheating.
Bob, Stevenage

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