An end to dear water and water shortages?

Ofwat have at last got there – they want competition in water supply to tackle the shortages, the high prices and the single-quality offer we all face. I am delighted. Let’s hope the government will now get on with it.

Like all monopolies, the water industry fails to innovate, fails to make enough supply available, and over-charges. You can have any type of water you want, as long as it is the standard-issue drinking-water quality, adulterated by chemicals it thinks are good for you, and sometimes with forced medicines as well. You have to tip expensive drinking water down the loo, wash the car with it, and water the bedding plants – unless it’s hot and dry, in which case you will probably be under a hosepipe ban.

Once competition is introduced, all kinds of things will become possible. Let me hazard a guess, by peering into a liberated future:

1. Cheaper kits will be actively marketed, to harvest the water from your roof to flush toilets and wash the car;
2. More borehole water will be tapped into, and new reservoirs will be built, so we do not have to ration water if we ever get a hot summer again;
3. Better pipes will be put in to waste less water;
4. Water prices will go up by 20% less than under monopoly regulation as competition comes in – we may even get lower bills;
5. Business consumers will be able to buy different quality water for different purposes with, or without, specified additives.

We were told that competition in telephony could not work, that it was a natural monopoly because of the network of cables around the country. How wrong those defenders of monopoly were. Competition led to lower prices, the widespread adoption of radio technology to create rival mobile networks, and investment in a completely new fibre-optic cable network to replace the old and inadequate copper network of the monopolist. We went from being backward to being a market leader in phones. We went from a country struggling for every household to afford a single fixed line, to a country where most people now own mobiles.

Let the market loose in water, and something similar could happen. It will mean more jobs, lower prices, and better service – and it will be greener and cleaner.


  1. Peter
    May 16, 2008

    Would one of these new reservoirs be in the outstandingly beautiful countryside of South Oxfordshire? Won’t Boris have something to say on this (or his dad if we’re looking at family succession a la Crewe and Nantwich)?

  2. Adrian Peirson
    May 16, 2008

    It does appear to me that Big Government and the Global Elite are muscling in on the absolute basic necessities of life.
    Why should people not be encouraged (if they wish ( to take up Hunting, fishing, Collecting Rainwater.
    This is a very dangerous situation for us as Individuals. Look at our Fishing Industry decimated by Politicians.

    Look at Terminator Seeds, Currently farmers can use seeds from Last years crops to plant this years crop.

    Govt and the Global Elite (Bilderbergers) aim at putting an end to this.

    I believe you or someone has a duty to raise these issues in Parliament and warn the Public as to what is going on.

  3. Adrian Windisch
    May 16, 2008

    We've seen the water industry privatisation lead to all sorts of problems. Firstly they put profit before service, they arent interested in long term plans, reducing leaks, etc. They wont even talk to councils about reducing rats, because theres no money to be made from it. I think renationalising utilities is the answer.

    They have been slightly better as privatised monopolies than they were as public monopolies – we used to get cut off and rationed more often when the public sector owned them, and the water courses were dirtier. What we need is competition to be the customer's friend.

  4. mikestallard
    May 16, 2008

    I worked for Anglian Water once. Of course, they had a monopoly of all the terribly clogged up pipes (which they gradually stripped out). They also had the grid so that they could transfer water from other providers.
    What struck me was the fact that plastic pipes (blue for water) could be so easily laid. They only took a bit of unrolling. And, of course, this meant that they could provide all sorts of places – schools, hospitals etc – when the water was cut off. So much for the monopoly aspect.
    If there was a genuine choice – as there is with bottled water – people might get a much better service.

  5. Steven_L
    May 17, 2008

    Your first points in each section sway me the most – catching rainwater (which my Grandad used to do to water his garden from the 1930's until the late 1987 when he qualified for an ex-steelworkers retirement flat having reached 80) and more jobs.

    I'm presuming that if we have more pipes you still favour the idea of overground pipes encased in concrete to prevent more roadworks.

    Telecoms definately led to massive innovation and more jobs, gas and electric definatelt led to more jobs. There is a huge potential to improve our water infastructure, especially with long distance pipelines from the water rich regions in the North of the Uk to the South, but the turning water into a commodity is a difficult political task – I would definately object to oxygen becoming privatised and water is only one step away in terms of our basic needs.

    Reply: Bread is a basic need, but no-one thinks we would have a better bread supply if we nationalised it. I want water pipes under pavements with access that does not require digging up the road.

Comments are closed.