Water, water everywhere, and not a drop...

Dave Saltmanin Editorial

DaveSaltman-Aug09.jpgThe coalition Government, and in particular the Conservative side of it, have not had a good few weeks.

First we had Pastygate and the 'hot' VAT saga, followed by some pretty dumb - and illegal - advice from Minister for the Cabinet, Francis Maude, suggesting that, in light of a strike by tanker drivers that hadn't even been confirmed, people should store petrol in their garages in jerry cans (illegal!), with other politicians either leaping on the newsworthy bandwagon or jumping off, depending on their allegiance.

That prompted the great British public to do what it does best - panic buy. There were even reports of little old ladies taking jam jars and Tupperware type containers to the forecourts to fill them up. And, pity the poor soul who was transferring her petrol from one container to another - in the kitchen, whilst she was cooking! The outcome was predictable and, sadly for her, resulted in 40% burns.

Whilst a strangle on petrol reaching the pumps would have serious consequences for the UK's infrastructure, there is another, and equally valuable liquid that is already in short supply.

I talk, of course, of water. That stuff that falls from the sky free of charge, courtesy of Mother Nature, and surrounds our island nation.

The current water crisis affecting, in the main, the eastern side of the country, is a serious threat for our industry and, if news reports are to be believed, drought conditions are creeping westwards, with Wiltshire and Oxforshire next to be confirmed as officially 'in drought'.

Whilst we made light of the issue with our 1st April 'report' on Siberian water harvesting (sorry if you believed it), the guidelines coming from the seven water companies currently imposing hose pipe bans are mixed, confusing and constantly changing.

One actually stated that using a hose pipe to wash a dog was perfectly okay, which prompted one wag on our message board to suggest that he would be hosing down his hound on his cricket square!

As I write this foreword, much of the country still has had no significant rainfall, even though Aboyne in Scotland had reached 23.6OC in mid March - a new Scottish high for the month - followed by six inches of snow a week later.

And there's the rub. The UKs weather is as unpredictable as the England cricket team's top order. Scotland, Wales and the north-west has more water than it needs, whilst the east and south-east fry.

Back in 1976, after the last serious drought, the Government of the day suggested that a national water network would be in order; this at a time when the water providers were nationalised. Just a few short years later, the water companies had been 'sold off' to provide, allegedly, competitive prices to the end user along with more money to update the system.

It all sounds rather familiar, doesn't it? Fast forward thirty-five years, and little appears to have changed. Once again, there is a call for a national water network, whilst the water companies continue to make record profits, and millions of gallons of the stuff leaks out of the system every day!

Surely, now is the time to seriously consider a national network as a more than viable option, to offer incentives to the public to install rainwater harvesting and bore holes, to build desalination plants around the 7,760 miles of UK coastline, and to legislate for the system to be completely overhauled.

It seems bonkers that neighbouring water authorities can be offering different advice for the same weather conditions. It seems equally bonkers that our Government refuses to learn from the experiences of the past... and present!

Dave Saltman

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