FARMERS, sports clubs and gardeners have said the first hosepipe ban to hit the country in six years will leave them struggling.

Thames Water is one of seven companies in South and East England which announced the ban yesterday, and said anyone found flouting it could be fined up to £1,000.

The restrictions will hit more than eight million homes and are also expected to force up the price of food and drink, according to a report released today.

The Drought Prospects Report by the Environment Agency warns fruit, vegetable and salad growers in the southern and eastern parts of England could be hit by the lack of water, while livestock farmers could also be affected.

The Temporary Use Ban (TUB), or ‘hosepipe ban,’ will come into effect from April 5.

It bans homeowners from watering gardens, plants and washing cars with a hosepipe. All sports clubs are also banned from watering their pitches and grounds, unless they are taking part in a national or international competition.

Oxford United and Oxford City Football Club will continue to be able to water their pitches with a hosepipe but clubs competing lower levels will not.

It comes after one of the driest two-year periods in southern and eastern England since records began.

Since March 2010 the region has had 35cm less rain than normal.

Camilla Puzey, who breeds sheep at Little Wittenham’s Hill Farm, said births were down 25 per cent on the previous year as grazing grass was hit by low rainfall.

She said: “For us it’s more about the drought which has hit the grass.

“If there’s no grass, the animals can’t eat.”

Gardener Harry Robinson, of Headington, said he was also upset.

Mr Robinson, 81, an Oxford in Bloom judge, from Headington, added: “It’ll be a real struggle for me as I can’t physically carry all the water I need to my green house.”

Cumnor Cricket Club claims it was threatened with £30,000 worth of fines after Thames Water demanded it made specific changes to its watering arrangements.

Chairman Roger Mitty said the club had made £5,000 worth of alterations.

He said: “That’s an awful lot of money for a voluntary organisation.

“They’re not our favourite people at the moment.”

According to Thames Water, water cannot be be used for the following purposes 1. Watering a ‘garden’ using a hosepipe 2. Cleaning a private vehicle 3. Watering plants on domestic or other non-commercial premises 4. Cleaning a private leisure boat 5. Filling or maintaining a domestic pool 6. Drawing water, using a hosepipe, for domestic recreational use 7. Filling or maintaining a domestic pond 8. Filling or maintaining an ornamental fountain 9. Cleaning walls, or windows, of domestic premises using a hosepipe 10. Cleaning paths or patios using a hosepipe 11. Cleaning other artificial outdoor surfaces.

Exemptions: Watering a garden attached to a domestic dwelling or watering plants on domestic premises, by people with severe mobility problems who hold a current Blue Badge Using a hosepipe to clean a private motor vehicle, or walls and windows of domestic premises, where this is done as a service in the course of a business.

Watering an area of grass or artificial outdoor surfaces used for sport or recreation, where this is required for a national or international sports event.

Drip or trickle irrigation watering systems that are not handheld, that place water drip by drip directly onto the soil surface or beneath the soil surface.