Police chiefs have urged members of the public not to report suspected breaches of hosepipe bans to forces.
Police forces have already received 999 calls about residents’ use of water, even before restrictions are in place.
However, the hosepipe ban is a civil matter, not a criminal one, and police call handlers are being diverted away from dealing with real emergencies.
A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesperson said: “Breaches of hosepipe bans are a civil matter and should not be reported to the police.
“Any member of the public who has concerns about a potential breach should consider the advice from their water provider.”
Devon and Cornwall police said there had been “unprecedented demand” on their phone lines about a number of issues this summer, with more than 1,000 calls a day.
Assistant chief constable Nikki Leaper said: “We are also already getting calls from people reporting breaches of the hosepipe ban due to come in next week – which should be directed to the water company.
“All these issues should be dealt with by other agencies. There is a list of these agencies on our website, so please check online before you call us.”
South West Water, the provider for the area, said the ban would come into force from Tuesday to protect dwindling supplies.
The region has had little rain for the past eight months, with July being the driest for nearly a century, and the ban is the first in 26 years.
Thames Water, which supplies 15 million people, is also putting a hosepipe ban in place on 24 August, joining Welsh Water, Southern Water, South East Water and Yorkshire Water.
Those using their hosepipes during bans could face fines of up to £1,000 if taken to court, although water companies say they prefer “education over enforcement”.
People have been encouraged to report their neighbours if they spot them repeatedly breaching bans.