Water,water everywhere but not enough for plants to drink

The  water industry is an unusual one in the U.K. Instead of welcoming hot dry periods as a good opportunity to sell us more of its great product it lectures us to use less and threatens us with rationing.  It must be because retail water suppliers are largely regulated monopolies. The Quangos that regulate them do not want them investing enough to grow their business and the businesses acquiesce in managed muddle and disappointment for customers. Both Regulator and industry have also performed badly when it comes to requiring the industry to clean up dirty water before returning it to our rivers.

Some greens argue that we should learn to use less water to place less stress on the planet. That is a wrong argument. Water is the most common substance on the surface of our globe. It is the ultimate renewable resource. We were all taught about the water cycle. Water from the vast supplies in our oceans and seas is swept up into clouds by the travelling winds. Some is deposited back down as rain. It finds its way back to the sea. If people interrupt its progress and use it, they do not destroy it but pass it back to the river system via treatment works that should clean it from the dirty industrial process, washing or human urine forms. There is no great strain on the planet from using the water on its way back to sea, subject to regulating the uses we make of it.

Some people argue that the industry cannot expect to cope for every peak demand. If there is a hot summer then demand does rise as many more people want to water plants and fill paddling pools, more farmers want to irrigate crops and more drinks makers need to bottle more water based fluids. This too is a bizarre argument. The peak demand issue for a hot summer is mild compared with some of the peak demand issues other businesses face. The hot cross bun industry does not sell its products for most of the year and has plenty for Easter. It does not tell us in April it cannot handle such a peak and tell us to eat less or to order some for August.

The problem with monopoly and price regulation is two fold. Monopolies do not have to respond so well to customers as competitive businesses. If we had genuine choice of supplier to send us water down the pipes we would get a better service. Regulators do  not necessarily choose to regulate the price at the level it takes to ensure sufficient supply. Short term wishes to keep prices below a market price leaves some regulated industries short of capacity and unable to invest in enough new.

The Water Regulator needs to call in the main players and go through what ti would take to put in extra reservoirs, boreholes and desalination plans to make sure next time we have a hot spell with little rain we have enough water. It would also be a good idea to extend the competition now allowed for business water supply to spread to householders as well.


  1. Mark B
    August 11, 2022

    Good morning.

    It must be because retail water suppliers are largely regulated monopolies. The Quangos that regulate them do not want them investing enough to grow their business . . .

    And who created the monopolies, and who created the QUANGO’s ? And who may I ask, have been in government for the last twelve years ?

    I have been saying here exactly what you have said in your second from last paragraph. I can go to the supermarket, any supermarket, and choose from a range of bottled water all at varying prices. How ? Competition of course !

    Complaining is not the answer and looking to yet another ineffectual QUANGO to solve this problem is neither. This needs a dual approach.

    First. Create legislation that empowers consumers to demand their money back off all utility the companies when they fail to provide a service. We can do that with both private transactions and when rail services fail to meet their time tables. Hit them in their pockets / profits.

    Secondly. We need to look at services that are essentially monopolies like water and come up with better models for ownership. I propose that in future such services are sold to the workforce and become essentially non-profit trusts. We do this to a certain extent with the NHS so I see no reason why this cannot be done. We can attract investment as it is a utility and any necessary loans for infrastructure improvements (eg reservoirs) can be backed by the government. We such for the banks in 2008 so again I see no reason why this too cannot be done.

    Finally. We need a government with balls. Something I fear will be hard to find.

    1. rose
      August 11, 2022

      What we don’t need is Gordon Brown back in charge as the media seem to want. Perhaps Sir John might have time to set out why Gordon Brown was not the answer from 1997-2010 and why he is still not the answer now.

      1. Lifelogic
        August 11, 2022

        I quite enjoyed the book “Gordon is a Moron: The Definitive and Objective Analysis of Gordon Brown’s Decade as Chancellor of the Exchequer.”
        by Vernon Coleman.

        He has him about right. The Blair/Brown era was hugely damaging to the country – the damaging wars, botched devolution and legal reforms, yet more dire EU, the climate change act… we are still suffering from these reforms. Nothing remotely positive either from these ten years that I can find.

      2. Hope
        August 11, 2022

        Excellent post Mark.

        JR forgets Scotland did not privatise and still has water charge as part of the household rates that England use to do. Better provision and much cheaper! How many failed privatisations by Tories? Water, Railways etc. I think it would be better if JR apologised rather than passing the blame. I am sick to death of his MPs and ministers seeking to blame anyone or anything rather than accept they are useless. Energy prices and buggers muddle currently of the Tory making, no one else, no world event.

        Scotland provides free water and sewerage, free university tuition, free prescriptions, free care homes. England use to do that before the Tories decided it wants to tax us out of existence. How come Scotland can afford to continue to provide these to its citizens? Does Scotland have a different tax pot? Who actually speaks for England? Lothian question JR? Any change to devolved nations? Who was go8ng to have a bonfire of quangos? Who appointed former Labour ministers as advisors and lead quangos? Oh, I remember socialist Tories.

        1. Donna
          August 11, 2022

          Scotland is heavily subsidised by English taxpayers. It also has a tiny population compared to the size of the country; it hasn’t been “enriched” by millions of immigrants and also benefits from substantial rainfall.

          But I guess that’s all irrelevant to you.

          1. Hope
            August 12, 2022

            Precisely Donna. Cameron pledged to solve the Lothian question. He gave a crumb which Gove took away last year! Tories happy to use the English as cash cows for the devolved nations and the world! I am sick of it. I want someone to actually speak and stand up for England not just give empty words.

        2. Tim Hutch
          August 12, 2022

          No, England provides all of Scotland’s free stuff.

      3. Nottingham Lad Himself
        August 11, 2022

        The country was in nothing at all like the mess that it is now, even during the US-led global financial panic during those years.

        1. Fedupsoutherner
          August 11, 2022

          NLH. But then we didn’t have a nutter on the lose like Putin and a war on our doorstep which has changed everything. Add to that a pandemic.

          1. hefner
            August 12, 2022

            Putin became president in 2000, reelected in 2004, turned Prime Minister in 2008, president again in 2012.

    2. PeteB
      August 11, 2022

      The regulators of banks and insurers require them to be secure against a 1 in 200 year event. Could challenge the quality of this test but it does men these bodies can handle financial extremes. Why does OFWAT not require the water companies to show they can handle a 1:200 drought event or a 1:200 flooding event?

      Of course there is a big cost in such protection. Financial companies tie up capital, water companies will tie up capital & have the planning challenges of building extra reservoirs. Are customers aware of the price they would pay? Perhaps if they knew they’d agree to occasional hosepipe bans instead?

      1. Sir Joe Soap
        August 11, 2022

        Well this is true. Competitive extractive industries can make a decision to spend on extra capacity but can be hobbled on returns for years if their competitors do the same. Shortages are actually resolved by rationing, whereby e.g. mining companies want to keep their long term customers in business so won’t necessarily sell to the highest bidder. It’s clear that the pricing mechanism which can be used for say nickel or copper wouldn’t go down well here for water, with prices quadrupling in periods of drought. So another way must be found to secure basic supplies for people at a reasonable cost, and rationing, which would occur in a similar way even in a competitive market, might be the best way.

      2. margaret
        August 11, 2022

        Theoretically nationalising the water industry seems to be the way forward , but you have already made the argument of staffing problems. I don’t believe that competition is the only way forward, it tempts corruption and corner cutting . Gordon Brown has just suggested temporary nationalisation of energy which may work.
        Whilst many suffer due to water shortage , others suffer due to flooding . I cannot understand why the sandbags come out in heavy downpours and nothing is done to create flood plains where water can be channeled into. Why instead of building toy houses where more water will be needed, cant there be water store?

        1. Mark B
          August 12, 2022

          The sandbags come out because of lack of dredging. The reason for lack of dredging is because, when we were in the EU, the EU forbade it. Now we are out of the EU one supposes we can ?

          1. Hope
            August 12, 2022

            Correct. EU environment rules. However, Johnson signed up to have a level playing field on Environment, employment etc. ie follow EU!

            UK still has EU shackles to restrain the country from being successful. Brexit certainly not done. Environment Agency is a very expensive waste of taxpayers money it could be scrapped without any consequence for the taxpayer.

    3. Dave Andrews
      August 11, 2022

      I agree a different ownership model is needed.
      State ownership suffers from the state not wishing to invest in infrastructure, and the workforce seek to achieve their ends with strikes. No one feels the need to do a productive job, in case they embarrass their less able fellows.
      Private ownership suffers because the management don’t wish to invest, but would rather big up the profits for shareholders. No one feels the need to do a productive job, because their good work just becomes the profit of others. At least though there are less strikes.
      What is needed is a middle path, where the water company is owned as a partnership between the employees and customers. The company may pay the state to lease the infrastructure as they can’t pay for it outright, but investment can come from their surplus and new developments must pay their share for additional infrastructure. Employees that perform well can be valued and rewarded.
      Rather like building societies.

      1. Mark B
        August 12, 2022


    4. dixie
      August 11, 2022

      I agree the ownership model has to change. Thames Water has had foreign ownership where not only has investment been lacking, profits have also been leaking out of the country.
      As a customer I am also angry that I and many others in the Thames Valley westward have to pay a levy to fund the London super sewer. But I have no choice because of the way this ownership has been setup.
      The assets should be in public hands, not employee or “investors”, so these cannot be turned into foreign profits with UK debts, and services outsourced with enforceable and enforced performance contracts.
      Why is there no national water “grid”?

    5. a-tracy
      August 11, 2022

      MarkB, how does the workforce afford to buy the companies? Or are you just proposing a mass giveaway? Does that include to the people that worked there 40 years and have just retired as well as the person who has only been there a few weeks? What about all the customers who have no choice but to use them?

      Anyone can run a company that has no competitors in an essential market? Actually, when you get paid, no matter what the results some people can’t. It’s a shame we don’t have one person in charge of A&E around England that we can hold responsible.

      1. Mark B
        August 12, 2022


        I offer a ‘possible’ solution and leave it to others, much like yourself, to consider both it and any other alternatives.

        The employees only own the entity and rights, not the land, plant and equipment. They work to maintain it and offer a service. Whilst offering a service they are paid plus, any reasonable profits (eg 5%) are distributed too them. The details can be worked out elsewhere. But the government should set the standards and the management set short, medium and long term goals and investment. They can go to the City for finance which they can negotiate. The government can underwrite up to 50% of any loan thereby reducing the risk and the interest payments. Remember, the government own the land, plant and equipment, not the employment contracts. If properly managed this can work.

        1. a-tracy
          August 12, 2022

          So like John Lewis ( don’t you ever wonder, though just who makes the big bucks from John Lewis, the banks, the investment brokers?), it doesn’t always work well from what I see and read about a Housing Association; for investment and reinvestment and a local run-down area, it is taking the private sector to uplift the area and build housing people want; it just seems to make some ex-council workers and councillors very wealthy and gives them excellent pensions, perks, lots of days off on full pay, ‘working’ from home, the homes available aren’t increased they decrease over 1000 (I wonder if there are less staff now than there were at the start when they ran 1000 homes more – I bet not), they moan about having to sell off houses to tenants, yet they paid less than £7500 per home for them! They must have paid for these homes dozens of times over. I don’t see the promised £30m of spending I believe they are £10m under what was promised, balconies unrepaired and left in a state for over a year, half falling down, holes in the land just left dangerous for children I could go on, shops falling to pieces with what could be accommodation above them in ruin, vandalism (and by little kids “what are you looking at you f’ing Karen” one little one about 7 shouted over to me when I waited for my husband to come out of the shop and looked and him and his friends destroying a wall, just because that little part of the area isn’t cared for.

  2. Peter Wood
    August 11, 2022

    Good Morning,

    What a confused argument. Let’s get it straight. Monopolies often do not serve the public well, BUT in certain curcumstances they are necessary. Look at the railway companies, similar to water compnies, they have a monopoly in the spcific area of their operation, and therefore we get the least service that can get away with for the price. The greatest demand on a company with a monopoly is from its shareholders. Therefore, private monopolies are a bad idea.

    State owned monopolies are the only solution; this is because the cost of the business in question does not have to pay for private shareholders. The downside is that the state seems to have difficulty in finding and keeping good management, and keeping out of the running of the service. But given certain industries, water, rail etc are ‘forever industries’ then the governemnt needs to find a system to establish the SOE and the right kind of people for these enterprises.

    Reply Your argument is the muddled one. Competition works, keeping prices down and supply up. State trading monopolies have a bad record.

    1. rose
      August 11, 2022

      Nationalised railways were dingy and dangerous. There were more crashes then. The staff were often surly and there were continual strikes. Fares were high. The “shareholders” were the taxpayers, who had other ideas about where their taxes should go. So we got no investment – which we had had when the companies were private. The one advantage was that one could travel straight through from Glasgow to Penzance.

      1. Hope
        August 11, 2022

        Rose, what of the current railway position? It is all but nationalised, prices very high, strikes happening and a complete buggers muddle! How many millions did Villers waste, £40 million, and what happened any sanction?

        How many times has JR blogged about railways and what action has actually happened over 12 years! How much has TFL cost the taxpayer, is there any fix3d cost or ceiling for HS2?

      2. Old salt
        August 11, 2022

        Old adage – Nationalised and paralysed.

      3. a-tracy
        August 12, 2022

        Rose, Virgin west coast mainline were fantastic, good prices, good service, clean train toilets, good food, they took the franchise off them, don’t use the train anymore the service went down and down whilst prices went up.

    2. Narrow Shoulders
      August 11, 2022

      But there is no competition in state sanctioned monopolies Sir John. Therefore there is no incentive to improve above minimum standards if that comes at a cost. Your argument for greater competition is the correct one but privatisation of state monopolies has not designed in competition, event the gas and electricity market only introduced competition of payment method rather than delivery.

      I still believe that privatisation beat union-led nationalisation but there needs to be diversity of supply.

    3. Lifelogic
      August 11, 2022

      Private monopolies not good. State virtual monopolies like the NHS, schools… even worse. People need freedom and choice as to have they spend their own money. Not some government taking nearly all off them them then giving them a little back of what the government thinks if good for them! This after wasting £billions in collection and distribution costs in the process. Thinks like “eat out to help out”, free bus passes, soft loans for worthless degrees, the dire “free” at the point of use/delay/rationing NHS are just insane economics.

    4. hefner
      August 11, 2022

      Reply to reply: Sorry Sir John, your argument is the muddled one. What competition is there in the Thames Valley, Thames Water vs. Thames Water? ‘If we had a genuine choice of supplier to send us water down the pipes’: do you expect a competitor to set up an alternate distribution network?

      ‘Keeping prices down and supply up’: We already have such a model for electricity, gas, phone, mobile. For fixed line telephone, it is a pseudo-competition. For electricity and gas, having supplying/distribution companies (S&S for electricity, SGM for gas in Wokingham) distinct from the customer charging companies created the mess of 30 utility companies failing this past year.
      So, can you put hand on heart and say this model has been a frank success?

      You really are the one with a bizarre argument.

      Reply Competing suppliers buying capacity from a common carrier pipe or putting in their own leak free new pipes.
      Of course I disagree with the price controls which led to the electricity bankruptcies

      1. Hope
        August 12, 2022

        +1 Hef.

        I think JR’s blog is a muddle, like the water privatisation in the first place. 9% year on year increases for alleged infrastructure and here we are at historic highs for dumping waste into rivers! Councils were allowed to build rubbish dumps at the water edge of rivers. Guess what, the banks eroded and rubbish now entering rivers. Over a thousand it has been reported! Caring for the Environment, my foot.

    5. Iain Moore
      August 11, 2022

      Nationalised industries are the worst, for they put the interests of the customer last , behind those of the bureaucracy and unions . The water utilities weren’t such wonderful organisations before privatisation , our coastline was some of the most polluted in Europe , pumping untreated sewage into the sea was the norm, I believe Surfers against Sewage came about during state ownership because of this dreadful situation, and the leaks the water companies are still having to deal with are the result of the criminal lack of investment by the state.

      I would agree that the way the privatisation has worked out in some cases is not great, especially when they have been allowed to be taken over , their corporate structure relocated abroad, and used as a cash cow that generates a pretty much guaranteed income stream . I feel there is a better structure for our utilities to be had between nationalised socialism and red tooth and claw globalist capitalism , some of it to be found in the way these companies were first privatised , with the Government holding a golden share which kept the company ownership located in the UK , and perhaps there is an argument to say the ownership of these utilities should in part be made more local than the state.

      1. Mark B
        August 12, 2022

        Privatisation works when there is genuine competition and markets are free, fair and open. They do not work when they are monopolies.

    6. Mike Wilson
      August 11, 2022

      On the contrary. The idea that lots of different companies can build reservoirs and water treatment works and then bid for customers to send their water to (through whose pipes?) is utterly absurd. The storage, treatment and distribution of water to every house in the country is obviously a natural monopoly. Unfortunately our governments can’t seem to run anything. The same is true for electricity and gas and the phone network. The privatisation of these utilities has meant one farce after another. Lack of investment, massive salary packages for useless executives and payouts for shareholders- instead of investment. How anyone can defend the current situation baffles me. As for the railways, don’t get me started. I am surprised you don’t let private companies build competing road networks.

    7. Peter
      August 11, 2022

      Peter Wood,

      Yes publicly owned utilities provided a better service. There was a public service ethos. Employees had reasonable pay and a long term career, chief executives were well paid but not earning an absolute fortune.

      For doctrinaire reasons privatisation was introduced wherever possible. For government it offered the benefit that they could now say any problems are ‘nothing to with us’. Their friends in The City made fortunes arranging the sell offs. Individuals were initially happy to see shares offered to the public increase in value.

      Then the problems emerged. Regulators, across the board, are notoriously useless. They cannot attract the quality of staff needed and so companies run rings around them. Foreign companies gradually acquired control of utilities, railways etc. They had little concern for domestic consumers but a great deal for taking as much profit as possible.

      As with the railways, the government’s knows privatisation was largely a failure but cannot bring itself to admit this.

      Privatisation of profit and public ownership of loss continues.

    8. acorn
      August 11, 2022

      Water, yet another failed privatisation. There is no globalised “just-in-time” supply chain for rain water. Hence, someone has to keep inventory, in this case, reservoirs for water. Keeping inventory of anything is anathema for Conservative ideology (PPE stocks for a pandemic for instance). Private water companies investing millions in reservoirs on the basis that they might run short for a few weeks in a decade; doesn’t do the balance sheet any favours.

      The simplistic Conservative mantra of competition and tax cuts, isn’t going to get us out of the soft and brown we are heading into; leaderless, rudderless and clueless.

    9. Peter Wood
      August 11, 2022

      Reply to Reply, and to Rose,

      I don’t like monopolies BUT, in your argument, where is the competition on the railways now? All we have is private companies running certain routes, on a ‘route monopoly’, leasing government owned rolling stock, stations and lines. The government owned part requires massive government subsidy, while the private operators skim off a profit; it’s a transfer of tax payer money to private shareholders – madness!
      To Rose, yes, I know they were terrible, but because of the state of the nation at the time, almost bankrupted by Labour and the Unions. As I said, what’s needed are those rare beings who will do an honest days work for a decent pay, and spend most of their career with one employer.

    10. outsider
      August 11, 2022

      Trying to force competition into natural monopoly is a triumph of blind dogma over common sense. That is why the artificially structured privatised railway system got into such a mess; that is why we face electricity rationing. That is why millions were suddenly faced with gas being cut off unless bailed out by the government and the biggest players.
      State ownership rarely works. It led to decades of chronic under-investment in water. The regulated private sector is not intellectually satisfying but works.
      In water, it leads to a regulatory tension between price to consumers and investment to cope with unusual or extreme conditions (hosepipe bans being now much rarer). As the sun scorches down, a bigger margin of supply sounds a great idea. When the higher bills come in, ordinary families may feel that a further addition to their basic cost of living would not be timely.

    11. Hat man
      August 11, 2022

      We have among the most expensive rail fares in Europe and the highest energy prices in Europe too. So how, Sir John, is competition in these privatised sectors ‘keeping prices down’?

    12. Mickey Taking
      August 11, 2022

      monopolies are typically poor. Why? Well the customers can’t walk away and buy somewhere else !
      Why improve production, recycling and offer new products and availability when the customer always pays?

  3. DOM
    August 11, 2022

    Surely John can’t be so naive as to believe that the intent of this green revolution being driven by State, Quangos and co-opted private companies is to protect the planet?

    Western governments and their so called ‘green’ activist buddies don’t give a toss about the planet, its climate or natural habitat. These realities are merely invoked to justify total State control and surveillance over how we live and conduct our daily lives. It is Reichstag politics all over again. If there isn’t an obvious reason to justify political action then simply INVENT one.

    When the manure hits the fan as it will at some point the consequences may well change the very nature of democracy as I feel the general population is being deliberately prodded

    John may express his ire but he knows full well that his party is fully signed up to this Marxist garbage. Maybe he should openly repudiate the entire woke agenda which is driving a stake into the heart of all that is real, normal and truthful

    1. Sharon
      August 11, 2022

      I assumed all this shortage of water rhetoric to be part of the global scaremongering about how the world is going to melt/explode/implode or whatever they’re trying to make us believe.

      I can’t remember the name of the water organisation which stated it, but there is no water shortage.

      1. Lifelogic
        August 11, 2022

        They have surely deliberately restricted the provision of more water storage facilities so as to use these artificial water “shortages” to push even more of the climate alarmist religion/agender.

      2. cuibono
        August 11, 2022

        Agree 100%.
        Project fear all over again ( and possibly mismanagement).

      3. Hope
        August 11, 2022

        But Ofgem hiring very expensive diversity and inclusion officers will solve all our problems this winter! Highlighted by GB news.

    2. Lifelogic
      August 11, 2022


    3. Lester_Cynic
      August 11, 2022


      Exactly so, anyone in their right mind can see that!

      This won’t end well

  4. Lifelogic
    August 11, 2022

    Exactly the water either runs directly down the rivers into the sea or it is treated, then used, then treated again and then runs into the sea. It is vital for life and food production. One can however save large amounts fairly easily by reusing grey water for loo flushing or just by flushing less frequently. Or collecting rain water for the. garden directly.

    Depending on the cost of water this can be a sensible investment. But then water in the UK were the water companies run properly should be usually be cheap enough not to have to do this.

    1. Mockbeggar
      August 11, 2022

      It sounds a bit like the old rhyme:

      “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.
      “If it’s brown, flush it down.”

      Our kind host will probably cancel this one, and I don’t blame him.

  5. Nigl
    August 11, 2022

    Sensible but decades too late. It is your governments job to ensure we have fundamental essential services so your failure. No good trying to blame the Regulator, you hire them and set their parameters. Thames Water built a desalination plant with a large dollop of our money. They promised it would come on stream. Surprise surprise you accepted their promise but as ever no follow up. Is it working, of course not. Too expensive to run.

    Billions of litres lost through leaks yet we are being hounded to save teaspoon fulls.

    On a similar vein it looks as if their will be power rationing this winter.

    Your cabinet ministers are truly failing the electorate and two of them are duking it out to be our next PM.

    ‘For what we are about to receive, God help us’

    1. glen cullen
      August 11, 2022

      They’ve been fixing those same leaks for 30 years….and yet there’s no evidence of this – they’ve taken the money and run

  6. No Longer Anonymous
    August 11, 2022

    Why haven’t new reservoirs been built and why aren’t leaks being fixed ?

    Of course. The poor decisions by the directors of privatised companies are not inflationary *sarc*. It isn’t just their huge bonuses and salaries, it’s the shortage of supply that they’ve caused.

    Taxes – bans – fines – shortages/high prices

    Tory reality.

    Of course. The only people capable of causing inflation in neoTory World are ordinary workers demanding pay rises… to keep pace with neoTory inflation.

    They purport to stand for a high skilled and well paid workforce but where that still exists they are trying to kill it. And they tax everyone at inflation rates and then tell them they’re helping out.

    Why aren’t taxes caused by inflation inflationary ?

    2024, Sir John.

    The Workers have noticed how selective you’re being about what is inflationary and what is not.

    1. jerry
      August 11, 2022

      @NLA; “2024, Sir John.”

      Indeed the voters have noticed! Our host, many within his party, need to remember every political cycle, ideology, has its day and then withers, usually once the failings/half-truths become plainly visible, 1945 and 1979 were both such turning points here in the UK, 2023/4 is increasingly likely to be another. The Tory parties new leader, new PM, has 24 months to save their floundering ship, perhaps even save Brexit, given Labour appears to be suggesting under their leadership the UK would (at the minimum [1]) become nothing more than a ‘Greater Switzerland’, tied to the apron strings of Brussels…

      [1] UKIP and Reform et al need to remember any future coalition they cause might have even greater EU integrationist ideas

    2. Mickey Taking
      August 11, 2022

      Always poor excuses for refusing new reservoirs, and fat dividends paid to shareholders when much more ‘profit’ should be spent on the endless leaks.

  7. Donna
    August 11, 2022

    So basically, the Quango has failed.

    Perhaps Sir John could remind us who set the Quango’s objectives; who monitors its performance and who has the power to hold its senior personnel to account. Oh, and who has the power to scrap it.

    The Government’s ability to shift blame to the Quangos is precisely why we have so many of them.

    We have a water shortage (mainly in the south east) because, since 1997, various Governments have imported in excess of 5 million people – most of whom have settled in the SE. Over the same period NO additional reservoirs were built, or existing ones expanded.

    Nothing has been done to provide a water transfer system, bringing water from the more sparsely populated areas which also have more rainfall, to the drier areas. And no water desalination plants have been constructed.

    This is a problem ENTIRELY of this, and previous, Government’s making ….. which is only exacerbated by the failure of the Quango as well as the water companies to maintain/repair the leaky pipes.

    Perhaps Sir John could tell us when the Government is going to rid us of the utterly useless, incompetent Arts Grads who make up the Senior Civil Service and get some ENGINEERS instead.

    1. Hope
      August 12, 2022

      +100 spot on.

      Again JR shifting blame away from those ministers who have responsibility. If they fail sack them or get rid of the expensive quango.

  8. Peter Parsons
    August 11, 2022

    “Water is the most common substance on the surface of our globe.”

    Water may be, but Fresh Water (the sort that, as humans, we can consume) makes up less than 3% of the water on earth.

    The average Brit uses nearly 150 litres of water per day. The average German uses nearer 120 litres per day and the average Dane uses around 100 litres per day. So, yes, as a country we could get more efficient in terms of our water usage.

    And, yes, the water cycle is a natural process which we don’t have total control over, unlike making hot cross buns. Unless John Redwood has found a way to control the rain, as an analogy, it’s equivalent to comparing apples with the man in the moon.

    1. a-tracy
      August 11, 2022

      Peter, how do you know what average Brit useage is? People in the UK resist meters? What % of German and Danish homes are metered and measured properly rather than just guesses? Let’s face it our statistics offices make mistakes all the time.

      1. a-tracy
        August 11, 2022

        I would also add how is all of the leaking pipes and burst pipes water waste measured?

      2. Peter Parsons
        August 12, 2022

        Such information is in the public domain. It’s not hard to find.

        1. a-tracy
          August 12, 2022

          But you seem to know what you‘re talking about Peter you could have saved me the time, there are articles about dragons and fairies in the public domain it doesn‘t mean they are true.

          I will check it out though you‘ve peeked my interest now you‘re comparing us to the EU and finding us wanting as per usual.

    2. Peter2
      August 12, 2022

      Not really acorn.
      There is data stretching back centuries showing the average yearly rainfall in the UK is sufficient for our needs if we saved more of it in reservoirs and had a better network for transporting water from area A to area B.

      1. acorn
        August 12, 2022

        A large part of UK rainfall ends up in the North Sea! So how come the privatised water companies have not “saved more of it in reservoirs and had a better network for transporting water from area A to area B”. National infrastructure of the kind suggested, is a national government function. Building national infrastructure is always a national government responsibility; that’s why they were invented for the common good. Except if it is a Conservative government.

        1. Peter2
          August 12, 2022

          Planning permission for new reservoirs has been very difficult to obtain in the UK.
          It is part of the reduce reuse recycle climate policies preferred by the UK and EU for decades.
          The pipeline infrastructure is something successive governments (I note you forgot to mention Labour and Lib Dems when apportioning blame acorn) should have been driving but the same overall climate policies have made planning permission that much more difficult to achieve.

  9. cuibono
    August 11, 2022

    Isn’t about 70% of our water owned by foreign companies?
    What did anyone expect?
    Fairness ( bleat 🐑)?

    1. hefner
      August 12, 2022

      71% according to GMB, 27/09/2018.
      For Thames Water (relevant to Wokingham constituency) the ownership is available at
      thameswater.co.uk ‘Our ownership structure’, 2021.
      Two of the major investors provide benefits to some UK people:
      – the Universities Superannuation Scheme (19.7%) provides a pension scheme for UK academic staff,
      – Hermes GPE (a leading private equity group with a 8.7% share) provides a pension scheme for BT staff.

  10. Des
    August 11, 2022

    Quite right Mr Redwood. All the disincentives for good service you mention also apply to everything government does which is why state control is the least efficient and productive of any possible system. You have made the argument for tiny government. What a pity none of the policies currently pushed by your party reflect that.

  11. Donna
    August 11, 2022

    2.9 GW of electricity being supplied by a combination of the useless windmills and solar at the moment.

    16.4 GW being supplied by gas.

    So what are the Arts Grads Senior Civil Servants/Quangocrats and Eco Zealots in Parliament proposing to do? Increase windmills / solar and reduce gas provision.

    But the Minister will blame the Quango. And the Quango will blame the public, who are being forced to pay for the lunacy.

  12. Berkshire Alan
    August 11, 2022

    Lots of suggestions, but lots of unintended consequences as well.
    Scarcity of water (amongst many things) means the suppliers can charge more, so why spend more investment just to create a buffer that perhaps may not be used.
    Distribution via a national network of pipes and cables means I cannot choose who I purchase my gas, electricity, and water from, as the suppliers cannot supply me directly with their own product, which makes a farce of the so called 100% green suppliers claim. Thus the whole idea of separate independent suppliers to customers is a lie.
    The very basics of life should not be in the hands of profit making businesses, some of whom are located abroad.
    The problem we have is that successive Governments have also been so useless at managing anything efficiently or well, which is why they were sold off in the first place, and regulators put in place to deflect the blame.
    We now have even more chaos with the low emission Zones where each City /Town now has its own separate rules, regulations, and schemes instead of a national plan, if one is indeed needed, we all get confused and then fined.
    My electricity supplier boasts “all power from our own wind farms” except of course when the wind does not blow it does not cut me off, because it supplies me from the National Grid (as do all suppliers) which is always a mixture of generated power.

  13. jerry
    August 11, 2022

    “It must be because retail water suppliers are largely regulated monopolies.”

    No Sir John, it’s because they are profit orientated private companies with shareholders who demand their dividends, as the law requires. Ever less regulation, ever greater competition, will only make things worse.

    The UK has never been, and never will be, short of water, we are an island nation not some land locked country with few if any rivers! The industry simply needs to spend money investing in fixing leaks, renewing old water pipes, building new reservoirs, and/or the means to move water from areas of plenty to areas of shortage (as other modern countries already do, Spain, the USA, for example), even building desalination plants along with a non-potable grey water network for flushing toilets, washing down vehicles, watering lawns etc.

    We can measure our hosts suggested ‘solution’ for the water industry, we only need to look at the UK energy sector since privatization (before the Ukraine war); less generating capacity located here in the UK, ever higher end-user prices as the companies all chase the highest possible price, or the lowest possible re-investment, & thus satisfy shareholder demands for ever better returns on their investments (otherwise the pension companies and hedge funds etc will move their money elsewhere). In any case potable water is essential for life and health, not a commodity of choice. Many who can otherwise manage to live ‘off-grid’, or find ways to slash their energy consumption, often still find they have to be connected to a piped water-main supply, as relatively few live or work close enough to a naturally occurring fresh water supply, and even if they do they might not actually have any legal right of extraction.

  14. Dave Andrews
    August 11, 2022

    No water for your veg, but plenty to soak football club’s practice pitches.

  15. cuibono
    August 11, 2022

    Plenty of water in the country.
    Complete lack of the investment required to utilise it.
    FINE the water companies. Special measures. Sanctions. Penalise …works with the hoi polloi!
    No new reservoirs, no national water grid and no increased provision to take account of vast immigration. Where was modelling then??
    Another 10-15 million people tapping in the system.
    EVERYBODY needs water…doh!
    Oh sorry…I forgot composting loos, the stop washing advice and sucking on juicy cacti.
    What will the parasite class do?

  16. turboterrier
    August 11, 2022

    As government’s and local authorities embarked on trying to meet the insatiable demands of allowing housing development in all the planning and pre coordination meetings did I ever hear anyone from the local authorities ask the water companies what plans were in place for the extra demands on the waste water treatment process? The developers didn’t force the issue as the off site costs would impact on the land owners price and make it uneconomic.
    How today’s government’s can allow one litre of foul water to be discharged into rivers and the sea is a blight on this country. They preach to us about environmentalism. My bum.

  17. glen cullen
    August 11, 2022

    The issue isn’t consumer demand, it isn’t rainfall supply, its the LEAKS….and not all all leaks are associate with victoria era pipework…….its 100% maintenance of pipework by the water companies

  18. formula57
    August 11, 2022

    Whilst no doubt true that “Both Regulator and industry have also performed badly when it comes to requiring the industry to clean up dirty water before returning it to our rivers” they alas have been assisted by a well-known government!

    As you told us last October following your efforts during the passage of the Environment Bill (per https://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2021/10/25/end-sewage-discharges-to-rivers-by-water-companies/) the government wants to do more. But that more is applying Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 in England (available for the last twelve years but languishing unused!), something the Minister told us last October the Government is only “…committed to reviewing the case for implementing Schedule 3…”!!! Shameful neglect. Boris out!

  19. Graham
    August 11, 2022

    Am afraid Truss will give us nothing but more of the same tinged with a little extra ERG – she will not be allowed to flip flop and will do as she is told. In any case her coming to the top will make little difference to the ordinary man- for most ofvus the country is bunched – problem now is that no one else will want to be in government post 2024 given the mess. Taking back control – indeed

  20. agricola
    August 11, 2022

    Yet another example of politicians failing. Scotland is full of lochs and very few people. Keilder on the border was built in anticipation of north eastern industrial need that never materialised. Create a national water grid with pipe lines through the North Sea to feed the Midlands and South. Charge the largely foreign owned water companies for the water they need through lack of investment and regulate what they charge their customers. As a last resort set up desalination plants using intermittent wind generated electricity. Build more resevoirs. Finally an absolute ban on the discharge of foul water into our rivers and seas.
    What is your next problem?

  21. Christine
    August 11, 2022

    You can’t add 10s of millions of extra people to the UK population and expect the same infrastructure to cope with demand.

    It is successive governments over the last 50 years who have allowed our population to grow out of control. It is successive governments over the last 50 years that have privatised utilities and not built new reservoirs. This is down to politicians plain and simple.

    1. Hope
      August 11, 2022

      C, I accept your sentiment. I think 50 years is inaccurate. That would take us back to 1972. Immigration really started in 1997. In the seventies Tories and labour were vying to be the most stringent on immigration.

      The current Tories are implementing mass immigration, illegal and legal, while lying to the public that it has a plan or new legislation or new czar, or new task force anything to distract its true intention. We are an island therefore immigration can be controlled and people deported. If we are sovereign nation then there are no obstacles to do whatever the govt. wishes to do. This lot of liars decided to stay in ECHR despite promises to leave it three times for election purposes. Osborne made clear no one in private was serious about it.

      Sunak and truss have no intention to do anything. Anyone believing them are naive or stupid.

      1. Christine
        August 11, 2022

        The ECHR is a convenient excuse for doing nothing. Virtually no other country accepts asylum seekers from Albania but we do. This is why they are queueing up on the coast of France to get here. This government seems to do everything in it’s power to grow the population of the country.

        1. glen cullen
          August 11, 2022

          Agree – Spot On Christine…..and I do fear for our future

    2. Mark B
      August 11, 2022

      I totally agree.

  22. claxby pluckacre
    August 11, 2022

    You are correct in your description of transpiration, however,the global weather systems are controlled via transpiration in the rain forests swirling cloud and moisture around the globe, however….the less rainforest we have then the less weather patterns we have,as we are all now experiencing globally.
    Pointless green projects such as electrical cars ,solar panels and wind turbines are consuming these forests to satisfy their hunger for rare metals. The more green projects that are created mean less rainforest,which means more green projects to compensate for the loss of forest….and so it goes on

    1. hefner
      August 20, 2022

      Strange, I thought the major reason for tropical deforestation was for growing soya for feeding cattle or other plants for producing bioethanol. Anyway just a cursory check on where rare metals are extracted would show they are not mined from areas of rainforest. Where are you taking your information from, claxby?

  23. Original Richard
    August 11, 2022

    “The water industry is an unusual one in the U.K. Instead of welcoming hot dry periods as a good opportunity to sell us more of its great product it lectures us to use less and threatens us with rationing.”

    Er…no…we are constantly being urged to use less electricity and gas, to travel less, to eat and drink less and now even go outdoors less to avoid the lovely sunshine many of us need to boost our vitamin D.

    In the case of our net zero compliant electricity and gas we can expect rationing this winter or certainly by the next unless a u-turn takes place.

    The shortage of water is because the water companies have not increased storage, nor cut down on leakages, despite massive increases in our population through immigration coupled with even selling reservoirs for the necessary additional housing.

  24. None of the Above
    August 11, 2022

    I am not in favour of Nationalisation where free market competition is available.
    The trouble with the water industry is that there is no competition. As a consumer I can only have one supplier of water, unlike with gas and electricity.
    I am tired of contributing to share holder dividends, high salaries and bonuses to a company that expects me to ration what I pay almost £70 per month for when they have such a poor infrastructure replacement/improvement record.
    The Government must either replace the regulator and legislate for heavy penalties or they must nationalise and remove the profit and high salary element in he business model.
    Of course, I would prefer the former.

  25. X-Tory
    August 11, 2022

    It was reported only yesterday that far from building more reservoirs the water companies have been selling off the ones they had – for housing to be built there. And what did the regulator do? Nothing. (As an aside, I wonder why we need more housing? Where are these extra people coming from? Answers, anyone?). And we also read recently that the desalination plant built for London doesn’t work and never has. And what has tthe regulator done about this? Nothing.

    We can’t have 15 different taps in our house with pipes from different suppliers, so local monopolies are inevitable; so what is vital is to have an EFFECTIVE REGULATOR. Our problem is that Ofwat is garbage. The other problem is that our population is MUCH TOO HIGH. I have repeatedly pointed out that the maximum population for a country our size is 50 million. We are now over 70 million. Combine an excessive population with a useless regulator and you can guarantee that the current problems will oonly get worse. And what is the government doing about these twin problems? NOTHING. They don’t even have a target population, and have never criticised Ofwat as Sir John has done. The Conservative government has failed us all.

    1. rose
      August 11, 2022

      50 million is too high to be sustainable. It felt crowded at the time but we were told, don’t worry, it will fall naturally to 35 million.That is a sustainable figure though still 7 times the size of a Nordic population, and bigger than both Canada and Australia.

  26. Pauline Baxter
    August 11, 2022

    Now that did make me laugh, Sir John!
    If I installed a water meter like we have been nagged to do for many years, Severn Trent (in my case) should indeed, encourage me to use more! Perhaps they could offer a discount? or otherwise lower the price?
    No. I am not going to, because meters are all going ‘Smart’ now. Which means supply can be instantly cut off.
    Yes, as usual, you have talked 100% sense in today’s diary.

    Whatever else you do, or not do, when Liz Truss wins the leadership race DON’T LET HER MAKE THE MISTAKE OF CALLING AN ELECTION, like May did!

    1. hefner
      August 12, 2022

      … so we go on with a Government chosen by 360 Conservative MPs and potentially 160,000 Conservative members. You clearly are ready for a dictature, aren’t you?

      1. Peter2
        August 12, 2022

        You fail to understand how the Parliamentary system works heffy
        Though I expect when Gordon took over from Tony you were quite content.

        1. hefner
          August 20, 2022

          You expect that but the truth is that I didn’t care, P2.

  27. Mark
    August 11, 2022

    I see we were still transposing EU Water Directives into UK law in 2017, after the Brexit vote – clearly a priority for DEFRA and its ministers. The top objectives for OFWAT in their next price review are set by those parties and read

    Focusing on the long term with stronger adaptive planning to deliver the right investment to meet immediate and long-term challenges when the future is uncertain, as well as holding companies to account for the improvements that they need to deliver.
    Delivering greater environmental and social value, including by acting immediately on river water quality, moving faster towards net zero, as well as working differently into the future to adopt more catchment – and nature-based solutions.

    In other words, the green mafia are in charge and will use the rules to shut down farming and industry and requiring solar and wind to pump our water and sewerage, while rewilding the rivers for beavers. Actual supply problems can be ignored, because that is only a long term objective, way beyond the 5 year horizon of the review, to be incorporated into the 25 year plan that never gets implemented. I have some sympathy for OFWAT staff expected to deliver those priorities and for the water companies expected to comply.

    Perhaps we should ask the water companies what they would choose to do to meet increased demand and secure supply against drought while maintaining quality absent EU inspired regulation. The one with the best plan should be allowed an extra profit margin.

    1. Mark B
      August 12, 2022

      The plan, I suspect, by the Green Meanies (humans) is to get rid of other humans and return planet Earth back to a time before humans.

      Not as mad or as far fetched as you might think.

  28. a-tracy
    August 11, 2022

    Perhaps this is a positive for water meters, the water companies lose money when they cut supply. Being a monopoly, though, they seem to be able to raise their costs following a period like that to cover their losses!

    Any other business that cut people’s services off for four weeks would go out of business, not bus companies or tube companies or lose a significant amount of business.

  29. Mike Wilson
    August 11, 2022

    Profits: €4.06bn (£3.4bn) in first half 2022
    Chief executive: Leonhard Birnbaum
    His pay: €1.2m (£1m) in 2021
    Headquarters: Germany

    National Grid
    Profits: £3.4bn in 2021-22
    Chief executive: John Pettigrew
    His pay: £6.5m in 2021-22
    Headquarters: UK

    Profits: €2.6bn (£2.2bn) in first half 2022
    Chief executive: Markus Krebber
    His pay: €4.3m (£3.6m) in 2021
    Headquarters: Germany

    Profits: €1.75bn (£1.5bn) in first half 2022
    Chief executive: Mads Nipper
    His pay: €2m (£1.7m) in 2021
    Headquarters: Denmark

    Profits: £1.3bn in first half 2022
    Chief executive: Chris O’Shea
    His pay: £775,000 in 2021 (£1.1m bonus waived)
    Headquarters: UK

    Profits in 2021/22: £1.2bn
    Chief executive: Alistair Phillips-Davies
    His pay in 2021: £4.5m
    Headquarters: UK

    Profits: €1.2bn (£1bn) in 2021
    Chief executive: Klaus-Dieter Maubach
    His pay: €1.9m (£1.6m) in 2021
    Headquarters: Germany

    Scottish Power
    Profits: £925m in first half 2022
    Chief executive: Keith Anderson
    His pay: £1.35m in 2021
    Headquarters: UK

    Profits: £225m in first half 2022
    Chief executive: Will Gardiner
    His pay: £2.7m in 2021
    Headquarters: UK

    Figures from today’s Guardian.

    Ain’t privatisation great!?

    1. glen cullen
      August 11, 2022

      So thats where all the money, that should’ve been spent on leaks, has gone

  30. Lester_Cynic
    August 11, 2022

    The National Grid are saying that Co2 is a greenhouse gas, no it isn’t!

    It was equally hot in 1976 and we just enjoyed it without all the warnings that we are going to burn up, the fires that have been reported are down to arson, grass doesn’t spontaneously combust it needs an ignition source

  31. DOM
    August 11, 2022

    I see the odious Brown doing the bidding of Marxist Labour’s union paymasters who would love to see water and energy supply companies under Union control once more, at board meetings and being involved in every aspect of delivery.

    Brown’s the geezer who bankrupted the UK since 1997 though Sunak’s added to Brown’s legacy so both parties are slimy grifters but the unions are the big Socialist menace once more seeking to exploit any and all events if it serves its ideological and political agenda, sinister

    The Tory party can either expose Labour and the unions on many issues which cannot be discussed it seems or the UK will sink once more into their grip and this time there won’t be any way back for any of us if they get into power and digitalise and centralise cash or take direct control of our financial lives

    I see the NHS Tavistock is being sued by thousands of parents of damaged children. This is under a Tory government. Yes, a Tory government terrified of Stonewall

    Expose the left and their cancer

    1. Mark B
      August 12, 2022

      Most of the Parliamentary Tory Party is, shall I say, rather sympathetic to Stonewall 😉

  32. margaret
    August 11, 2022

    Have you been killing the albatross , we better bless those slimy creatures !

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