Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink

I am glad there is to be a Parliamentary investigation into the state of our water supply and flood defences.

Some say we need it to deal with the consequences of global warming. The predictions of climate change theorists tell us that we will need to store more water for drinking and other uses during the wet periods to cater with the drier periods. They also warn us about more floods, anticipating too much water in too short a time period.

I agree with those who say we need to manage the consequences of global warming, as the UK on her own will be unable to curb the worlds carbon output. The case for tackling our twin water problems is so much greater, because water shortage and too much flooding is directly linked to another contemporary phenomenon ?? high levels of inward migration allied to massive development.

I will be submitting evidence to the Parliamentary enquiry, and have submitted evidence to the governments review. My own constituency has given us plenty of warning of what is going wrong, thanks to the pattern of intense development. It reflects the position in much of southern and eastern England.

In recent summers we have been told to go easy on our water use, and in some places hosepipe bans have been imposed. We have experienced regular bouts of flooding, especially in places where there has been recent building on flood plain.

The solutions are relatively straightforward. To secure our water supply we need to take account of rising population, and rising water use per head. There is no need to demand restrictions on individual water use ?? water is the ultimate renewable resource, with the water cycle bringing water to us and taking it back to the sea on a regular basis.

By all means let the water companies mends their pipes, to get more water to market. We should remember, however, that mending pipes in urban areas is very disruptive to traffic and daily life, and might be ridiculously expensive. We should also expect the water industry to put in more capacity, increasing its reservoir space, and tapping new and rising water tables through boreholes. Introducing competition into the industry would doubtless bring in the new capital needed whilst lowering prices. It would also allow experimentation and innovation. Do we really need drinking quality water pumped to our homes to clean the loo and wash the car? Would house collection systems be better for some purposes? Would two different supplies make sense in some densely populated areas, with a cheaper grey water for many purposes? The market would answer these questions if allowed to function.

To keep us drier we need government to insist on proper flood control measures if they will persist in requiring development on flood plains. Every large scheme should not only tackle its own fast run off water but should make a contribution to the backlog of capital works needed to contain and route the run off water away from the developments. The Environment Agency needs to do a better job cleaning and maintaining the flood defences it already has, and putting in place the many schemes needed to bring relief from flooding to all those badly affected this summer.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted December 28, 2007 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I agree with all that – we don’t need to starve ourselves of water on this wet island! The only thing I would add is that surely producing clean water and transporting it around is very energy intensive – that would be a good reason to be economical with drinking water.

    One thing I think Parliament should do is finally get rid of the water rates – they were supposed to be gone by now but clearly the water companies persuaded the government that they shouldn’t have to introduce meters in all homes. In my flat the rate was something like double the metered bill – I don’t see why single people should be subsidising large families and a flat rate doesn’t encourage economy.

  2. Ian Evans
    Posted December 28, 2007 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it time that politicians (both in the UK) and globally face mankind’s biggest danger?

    Population growth! Virtually all mankind’s problems – including those associated with water – surely stem from the excessive global population. Politically difficult it may be, but logic dictates that the period of growing population must come to an end. Surely it would be better to manage this process now and at least to start talking about the issue seriously before this, mankind’s boom period, is followed by a catastrophic bust.

  3. Stuart Fairney
    Posted December 28, 2007 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Curious isn’t it how leftist “solutions” to issues of flooding and water supply are to ban and restrict. Ban development anywhere close to 1:100 year floodplains and ignore technical slutions like jacking up buildings or making them flood proof. Restrict water supply with useless hosepipe bans.

    More intelligent, actual solutions involve increasing water supply and actually using technical solutions to make new and existing towns less prone to flood damage.

  4. Cliff
    Posted December 29, 2007 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Ed:

    For your information.
    At present, those on un-metered supplies are actually subsidising those on meters. The reason for this according to the water regulator is that there were so few on meters the costs involved made it uneconomic. Now that there are so many on metered supplies, this subsidy cannot be justified so expect a jump of about twenty percent in your bill soon.
    Many people are suspicious when private companies “Want to save them money” this actually means the business wishes to make itself less profitable. Not something the shareholders would welcome. Water companies WANT people to go onto meters, this is the main reason so many were going for a drought order recently as they could then force people to have a meter installed.
    I suspect the cost of water will rocket once everyone is on meters. This then adds to the burden for the poor. Many poor people are in fuel poverty and I suspect many will be in water poverty. This may have an added problem, as poorer people try to use less water to keep their costs down, they may choose not to flush their toilets or not to wash so often. They may choose to drink less water. Dehydration is a major problem for the elderly and is a killer.

    Water is essential for life and as a wealthy country we should not deprive our citizens of it through economic policies.

    I was a major supporter of Mrs T and her privatisation of many of our state owned industries, however I feel it is very wrong for water to be in the hands of a private company and in our area, a foreign company.

    reply: What is wrong is for water to be in the hands of a monopoly – just look at the problems Scotland has had with state monopoly water.

  5. Bazman
    Posted December 29, 2007 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Water meters are an expensive way to pay for your water and it is known that water companies would love to see this made compulsory. I want to know how anyone apart from a single person in a flat can save money with one? It will be a sort of water poll tax. The government should build a water grid. To expensive is not an excuse. Northern rock? No problem.
    I also suspect that the gas and electricity companies see a lot of slack in the prices and will not be happy until they get the prices to the max. Like petrol.

  6. Posted December 30, 2007 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    The privatised water companies sell of reservoirs as they can make money from it, they care more for that than that the supply is reduced.

    No mention so far of collecting water from roofs, all houses should do this, starting with all new build. This non drinking water can be used for toilet flushing and showering.

    Also were paving over our land for parking, and reducing the groundwater recharge, and increasing the damage from flash flooding. Use methods that dont seal off the ground.

  7. Bazman
    Posted December 30, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I have mentioned before that the cost of adding underground water storage tanks and a pump to the toilets would be like adding the cost of electric windows to a car. These systems are available at a popular DIY store now for about

  8. DennisA
    Posted December 30, 2007 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    ” the consequences of global warming” First show me evidence that there is “global warming”. Is it warmer than 100 years ago, of course it is and thank goodness for that. Is this what the anti-carbon brigade are after?

    Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Ni

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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