Taps run dry at the Billy Stud during heatwave: ‘It couldn’t have happened at a worse time’

  • William and Pippa Funnell’s Billy Stud was caught up in the Surrey water shortage chaos caused by “technical issues” at a local pumping station near Cranleigh over the weekend.

    Their taps ran dry on Friday evening (12 August), during the peak of the recent heatwave, and it was then all hands on deck to try to water the couple’s 100 stabled competition horses, as well as the Stud’s 100 or so mares and youngsters in the fields, all of whom usually have access to automatic drinkers.

    “There was no warning – the supply just went off – and it was difficult to keep that many horses watered,” said William, who had been in Herning, Denmark, with his pupil Joe Stockdale, who was part of the bronze medal-winning showjumping team at the World Showjumping Championships, returning to a home without water on Saturday.

    “It couldn’t have happened at a worse time, in the middle of a heatwave when it was pushing 37C, but we were very lucky that we had some friends who had a tanker and they managed to bring us in enough water to fill everything up on Saturday morning.

    “It is unbelievable how much a horse drinks in that kind of weather – you really notice it when you have to start filling up water buckets by hand anyway!’

    None of the Funnells’ horses could be worked for two days, because they didn’t have enough water to wash them off in the heat.

    “We only just had enough to water them, we were using as many buckets as we could and we were filling up the troughs for the young ones every hour from first thing in the morning to last thing at night,” explained William.

    Water shortage: ‘We thought we’d have to give our horses bottled water!’

    Fortunately the Funnells also have their own water bowser, which they drove to the nearest working water supply they could find, which at least provided them with just enough water to last until the water board’s tanker arrived on Sunday.

    “That then allowed us to fill up every empty trough and container we could,” said William. “But it could have been disastrous. We were so lucky. Without having had people helping us with the tanker and allowing us to fill up our own bowser, we would have been seriously struggling by Sunday.”

    Residents across Surrey and Sussex were left without water for the whole weekend, as temperatures soared well above 30C in drought conditions, and hundreds were forced to queue for bottled water provided by Thames Water at stations across the region, with a maximum of two bottles allowed per person.

    “When it first happened, our valued members of staff thought we were going to have to give all our horses bottled water, so they were spotted filling up their cars with bottled water,” said William. “The rules were that you were only allowed two bottles, and I believe the police were called shortly after, but luckily it was all sorted!”

    Water supplies were restored in most areas on Sunday night, but problems with air pockets and low water pressure meant many residents, including the Funnells, were still experiencing problems until Monday night (15 August).

    “It kept going on and off on Monday,” said William. “Apparently it was caused by something at the pumping station, which is why it was localised to Cranleigh, near us.”

    By Tuesday, of course, the heavens had opened and rain showers meant the Billy Stud was well watered once again anyway.

    “We could do with it raining a lot more still, though,” said William.

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