Surrounded by water but there’s still a drought

Friday 25 May 2012 @ 11:34 am

After the wettest April on record, water companies have still imposed a drought order on large swathes of South England. Only in pathetic third-world Britain, an island surrounded by water, would there be a drought order after a whole month of torrential rain. The answer as to why is depressingly familiar for long-term residents well versed in the ways of rip-off UK and yet another example of privatisating key utilities to serve up vast profits for shareholders at the expense of clobbering the electorate.

Since water was privatised in 1989 by the Thatcher government, these greedy water companies have enjoyed massive profits whilst investing less and less in building reservoirs, reducing waste, fixing leaks and replacing the old Victorian sewers. Of course, they would have you believe that investment has shot up but the reality is very different. In London alone for example, the number of reservoirs to store and retain rainfall has dropped significantly resulting in water shortages and drought orders almost every year. Meanwhile, sections of the plumbing system are being replaced at a labour rate slower than a Spaniard during the siesta.

Land that could have been used for reservoirs has been sold off for profit, usually to spiv property developers, whilst the water companies bleat on about fitting every home with a meter to “monitor” usage and reduce waste. They could save millions more by fixing the bloody leaks in the pipes but that would be too expensive for the shareholders. The same goes for desalination depots, of which there is only 1 serving the London area which doesn’t even work.

And don’t think the watchdog Ofwat will do anything about it either, it’s as toothless as a old crone with gingivitis and has no real interest in serving the public trust. Like virtually all other utility watchdogs, Ofwat is a quango stuffed full of jobsworths who are only too happy to issue the odd punitive fine and then sit back the rest of the year and collect their fat 6-figure salaries. It makes me sick and the Government is wholly to blame.

Unlike the other utilities, which should at least have been ringfenced for privatisation in the national rather than foregin interest, the water companies hold a monopoly in that the public do not have a choice. You are stuck with whichever greedy water board operates in your area so they are able to charge whatever they like.

Rather than spend millions fixing leaks, the water companies prefer setting up hotlines to shop your neighbours and imposing hundred pound fines for using a hosepipe. Other than re-nationalisation, the solution of course would be to pipe water from the rain sodden North to the South because the problem is not so much there’s no water, it’s that the distribution is poor and the wastage immense. The Government would do well to scrap the stupid bloody High Speed link that will cost billions to knock a mere 20 minutes off the journey time between Birmingham and London and use that money instead to improve the water distribution network. However, that would be too sensible and save far too much money for a Parliament obsessed with wasting taxpayer cash.

That such an essential utility as water has been privatised is scandalous. That it still remains privatised more than 20 years later instead of passing back into public ownership is even more outrageous. The fact that nothing has been done in those 20 years to improve the water network is enough to take to the bottle. But don’t worry, when the very last drop of water has been expended and the peasants are all reduced to standpipes accompanied by water rationing, the Government will be only too happy to plug the plug and flush us all down the sewers.

You can be sure there’ll be plenty of water left for that.