This is a good question. So, we at WCM contacted DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs)
DEFRA has policy responsibility for water resources in England.
This is their response:
Under the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Drought Direction 2011, an ordinary drought order may authorise a water undertaker to prohibit or limit the use of water for cleaning a window of a non-domestic building using a hosepipe other than for health or safety reasons.
The Drought Direction sets out the uses that could be restricted under a drought order.
Also, the use of water can be prohibited by water companies in England and Wales under their own powers in the Water Industry Act 1991 (as amended by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010) and the Water Use (Temporary Bans) Order 2010, if it thinks that it is experiencing, or may experience, a serious shortage of water for distribution. Under section 76(2)(i) of the Water Industry Act, the water undertaker may prohibit the use of water for cleaning walls, or windows, of domestic premises using a hosepipe. Under paragraph 12(2) of the Water Use (Temporary Bans) Order 2010, an exception is again made for using a hosepipe to clean walls or windows of domestic premises for health and safety reasons.
Under either of these measures, there is no restriction on the use of hand held water containers, not filled by hosepipe.
It is also worth noting that, prohibitions may be applied to specify uses or in specified cases or circumstances and may also be made subject to exceptions. Window cleaners should respond to water companies’ notices of their plans to put in place restrictions with their views.
To find out the position of drought order exemptions for window cleaners in Northern Ireland and Scotland, a similar request should be sent to the Northern Ireland Executive and the Scottish Government respectively.
Incidentally – the Federation of Window Cleaners were fighting the corner for window cleaners back in 2007 when invites for views on a consultation document published by DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government on the modernization of the scope of hosepipe bans and drought orders which restrict or prohibit discretionary and non-essential uses of water.
Advice was given that to ban window cleaners from using water in WFP pole systems would be a health a safety risk.
Under the freedom of information act, WCM requested the documents of this consultation.
Many water companies are currently consulting, or have just completed consultation on their draft drought planning arrangements. The draft drought plan consultations are available on the water companies’ websites.
If it is further clarification the FWC response was as follows:
Please see the attached PDF – page from South East Water, that states a Window Cleaning business is exempt from the hose pipe restriction…. similar to other Water Authorities…although Veolia Water initially stipulated WFP systems were restricted but have now stated that window cleaners who have invested into WFP systems prior to 15th March 2012 can continue using them until 4th July.
Note; the above information applies only during phase 1 or phase 2 of the drought conditions.
‘ In order to conserve water resources, window cleaners should use a mix of conventional window cleaning practices with buckets, squeegees and applicators as well as telescopic poles alongside the use of water-fed pole systems, alongside the objectives of avoiding work at height whenever possible’
Further information can be found on all Water Authority websites.