Ever since the hosepipe ban came into force in the North West of England on 9 July I have heard a number of people question how there can be a hosepipe ban in place even when there have been floods in the region.

To try to explain I’ll use an analogy – humour me!

Noel runs a chain of successful Christmas shops in the North West. Due to the seasonal nature of his business he earns most of his money during the lead up to Christmas, and the profit he makes during that time allows him to keep his shops open all year round.

In the lead up to Christmas 2009 Noel’s business only sold 308 boxes of baubles, compared to the usual 529 that he sold in an average year. This meant that his business had only made 58% of what it made in an average winter and Noel was worried that he wouldn’t have enough profit to keep the shops open throughout the summer.

In July 2010 one of the towns where he had a shop held a fancy dress parade and that shop sold 50 boxes of baubles in one day, as locals looked for innovative ways to decorate their floats. It was a boost to that shop but the profit wasn’t enough to make up for the shortfall across all the shops in that year.

To ensure that his business retained enough money to keep trading until next Christmas Noel made the difficult decision to reduce the opening hours of all his shops over the summer.

I apologise for my clumsy analogy but it does illustrate the issue â- short, localised periods of rain are not enough to make up for the low water levels across the region. The numbers are based on the figures for the region that provides drinking water for the North West, with boxes of baubles replaced by millimetres of rainfall.

One fact to bear in mind is that running a hosepipe for just one hour uses as much water as an average family of four would use in an entire day, so even if you are outside the region covered by a ban please think twice before using a hosepipe!