In the South of the UK we have a drought, we have hosepipe bans. The provision of water is a complete mess, we’re all being told to conserve water, and that we can all do our bit. The BBC are currently running a headline “England Drought: Everyone Must Rethink Their Water Use, Experts Say”. Unfortunately, they haven’t opened it to user comments, instead, on their news homepage, the only article listed as being open for comments is “Forest hold on to beat Hammers as Rice Penalty saved”. Really. They avoided allowing users to have their say regarding “Saudi oil giant breaks profit record with $48.4bn” or “Postcode search: How will climate change affect your area?”. Even “Green spaces across England parched in the heatwave”. No comments allowed.
Locally to me, Southern Water discharges raw sewage into the sea at will without challenge or penalty, without making public announcements very clear. It’s the height of summer and bathers are becoming ill, then realising that something is wrong with the seawater, then are making enquiries only to be told by Southern Water that “have a look at our app”, here’s one account; Couple who swam in sea at Herne Bay after nearby Southern Water sewage release suffer sickness and diarrhoea (kentonline.co.uk).
I thought that they were only supposed to discharge sewage in the event of flooding and we’ve not had any rain for weeks…..
On average, across all of the water authorities, they lose somewhere in the region of 20% of the water they collect; they lose billions of litres of drinking water every year due to their lack of investment in maintenance and infrastructure. They have dividended their shareholders somewhere in the region of £20 billion since 2010, and are still ripping the backside out of it to this day. They are saddling their companies with an awful lot of debt too, which is an extremely curious phenomena.
Rather than landing the consumer with the burden of water shortage by asking them to restrict their usage, maybe the impotent regulator (OFWAT) could turn its attention to the elephant in the room. Namely the problem caused by decades of profiteering and dividending, lack of investment, climate change (would that really be a surprise to you if you were in the business of supplying water, no? Well it certainly is to our water “authorities”), and an absolute contempt for the consumer, and for the environment.
The interesting thing here is that when you look on social media, and particularly The Daily Mail articles and subsequent user comments regarding the drought, even their normally pro-privatisation, pro-government die hard supporters are turning against them. Here’s a couple of the top rated comments that basically sum up the issues that we are facing;
I blame lack of investment in infrastructure and pure greed on the part of the directors. Modern infrastructure should be able to withstand dry weather ffs.
Funny how gas mains haven’t been bursting all over the place despite routing through the same dry/heaving soil. Water companies have diverted our money to their management and owners pockets instead of investing in new pipes. BT invested in new network whilst being forced to cut their prices – how come Ofwat lets water companies put prices up without similar investing – incompetence or something else more ‘iffy?
How about these top responses to the headline “£3bn bonanza for fat cats: How investors (including the Chinese) took out cash that firms could have used to fix Britain’s creaking water network”
Its called Selling England by the pound, and its been going on for years and years. Hardly news
To be fair this wasn’t a privatisation as there is zero competition – it was a sell off of state assets. The companies have continually failed to plan for the future and have acted short term in the interests of their shareholders. Renationalising them at enormous cost isn’t the answer I’m afraid – what they do need is new laws to oversee exactly what they do and how they operate and that they serve the consumers and the country failing which they should pay huge penalties.
That sort of brings me to a conclusion.
I can’t see that the government and the regulators are going to bring the water companies to heel, so that leaves another option; re-nationalisation. That could explain why the companies have been pulling so much money out and saddling themselves with debt. The good old UK taxpayer picks up the debt again.
A decade ago, I would have considered this situation impossible, but, looking at it now and if you look at the way that our government has spent our money over the last three years….. watch this space.
One question to myself…. how long do ‘they’ seriously think that they can get away with this? By this, I mean the transfer of money from the less well off to the incredibly rich in terms of overcharging for water, fuel, energy, food, all of the basic essentials required to exist. This last three years has seen the biggest transfer of wealth from the working classes to the rich that I’ve ever witnessed.
Something has got to give.