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Deliberate Water "Shortages" ;

(17 Posts)
Bags Tue 15-May-12 13:18:57

Christopher Booker claims in this article that water shortages in Britain are a deliberate ploy by the government. In other words, that there is no real reason why there need be a water shortage as we get enough rain.

I'd be interested to see any articles by other writers that refute this, if anyone can point me to them.

jeni Tue 15-May-12 13:28:55


Ariadne Tue 15-May-12 13:34:50

How interesting! Will keep an eye on this.

glammanana Tue 15-May-12 13:44:30

Very interesting indeed,the amount of rain we have had we should all be waterlogged not having shortages.Webbed feet come to mind.

Anagram Tue 15-May-12 13:52:37

Ooh, Mr A will love this! Thanks, Bags.

Elegran Tue 15-May-12 14:28:18

But why?

goldengirl Wed 16-May-12 14:01:06

It's what happens to the rain that falls that matters. Is it stored properly? Are leaks corrected promptly?
We're one of the areas still under a hosepipe ban and I honestly can't see why Joe/Josephine Public has yet again to obey this rule whilst others remain unaffected because of their work. I saw an employee in a garden centre recently talking to his mate whilst wielding a power spray at the same plants all the time he was chatting. The stone slabbed ground got a wonderful watering as well. One rule for the..........

absentgrana Wed 16-May-12 14:39:47

Conspiracy or just the usual incompetence and the left hand not even being aware of the right hand's existence?

JessM Wed 16-May-12 15:52:41

This sort of article is, in my opinion, a load of ill informed rubbish.
If new reservoirs are built in places like Abingdon, where does he think the water is going to come from? The Thames, that is where, and extracting more water from rivers has all kinds of knock on effects to other users and to wildlife.
If the water companies have to invest millions in new reservoirs, that will put the price of water up in those areas. It is not the government that make this investment. They may have a few local voters that don't want "valleys flooded" but this is hardly a major political movement.
One month of wetter weather is going to refill our village ponds but not huge reservoirs and certainly not huge underwater aquifers (important in the south east) that have been undersupplied with rainfall over the last 2 years. So we still have a drought - or rather a water supply problem. Not too hard to grasp surely.
Water companies have been slogging away at improving pipework and fixing leaks ever since privatisation. Again, if they do this at a faster rate everyone moans about the roads being dug up and water bills rising.
Truth is we all squander potable water in large quantities. Every drop has to be collected and treated and that does not come free. The build more reservoirs (an presumably water treatment works) rather than use less water argument has a direct parallel. We all squander energy - so the best solution is build more power stations is it? Or just maybe instead of ill informed whinging we could try to reduce the amount we waste.

Anagram Wed 16-May-12 16:34:16

Well, that's told us! grin

JessM Wed 16-May-12 16:50:35

Bags knew I would rise to that one.

Bags Wed 16-May-12 21:51:13

Who needs other newspaper articles when you've got jess! wink

fieldwake Wed 16-May-12 22:08:20

I did hear that the water companies had been selling off storage to developers? But yes rise in pop.all using more water etc. dry spell it is logical. Whichever it is good to all be more careful

Bags Thu 17-May-12 06:17:22

Oxford is in the Thames Valley. The fields around Oxford flood most years – not deep flooding, but with huuuuge 'puddles' covering whole or half fields. Where does that water go? Some of it will evaporate of course. I never noticed the rivers (Thames plus Cherwell) at Oxford looking particularly low.

So can you explain a bit more about the problem of taking too much water out of the Thames, please, jess.

Also, there are quite a lot of old gravel pits in Oxfordshire which are full of water. Some are used for recreational purposes such as sailing. Presumably these water storage areas were not full of water until we dug the gravel up. Could they be used for potable water storage without digging more holes, or flooding more valleys?

JessM Thu 17-May-12 07:43:20

Water abstraction from rivers is the responsibility of the Environment Agency. They inherited it at privatisation. (some info about sustainability of abstraction on their website)
The water in the Thames as it reaches London has been sucked out, treated, used, waste-water treated and returned to the Thames several times. This all has to be done in such a way as to maintain river water quality to ensure it is not overly polluted when it arrives at the next water treatment works. In between there will be businesses and farms that have abstraction licences. If you suck out too much from a river you could in theory end up with low flow downstream. Also water quality has to be maintained for fish, canoeists etc. All of this is pretty tricky to achieve.
It is easy to make a worthwhile reservoir if you are in the mountains - just build a dam near the top of a valley (assuming you have the right kind of rock and the water is running off not soaking in) Lowland reservoirs - you would have to dig a very deep hole, the geology would have to be non-porous .
Gravel pits may look like big bodies of water but may not be deep - so quantity may be relatively small. ALso very low lying areas may not be suitable as if you have lots of lovely water in the valley and all the houses are uphill - it costs an absolute fortune in energy to pump water uphill - it is very heavy.
You also have to build a works - a factory - and connect the works to the water distribution network you started with.
All these factors have to be taken into account. Looks easy when it just comes out of the tap.
Oh I sometimes miss the water industry, it was interesting sad

Bags Thu 17-May-12 08:24:19

But we have all the technology to do all that, don't we? So we could if we were desperate. The point I'm trying to make is that, as a nation, we are not actually short of water compared with really dry nations. It looks as if we're not desperate enough yet to take the kind of large scale measures to make a difference that the Victorians were willing to take.

I agree about trying to reduce water wastage on the domestic front. I'm always telling DH that he doesn't need that much water to rinse his cafetière! I'm afraid it falls of deaf (or belligerent!) ears as we suffer rather from an excess of water up here! There is also a lack of coordination and will where it is most needed. When we had a leak in our outdoor, underground mains supply pipe it tooks months to find someone wiling to mend it! Scottish Water wouldn't do it, even though they were mending another leak a few metres away and even though we were perfectly willing to pay them to do our leak! Plumbers wouldn't do it. Builders wouldn't do it. DH broke a pickaxe and damaged his wrist trying to get at it himself. Eventually a friend who was having a house built lent us their builder for the job, so long as we paid him in cash. What is one to do when relatively simple problems are exacerbated like this. It does tend to make people juat say to hell with it, why should I bother? And you can't blame them really when them as could help won't.

This is a change from the late eighties when we had the same problem at our Oxfordshire house. At that time water boards (or whatever they were called) did mend mains leaks within customers' property, so long as the customers paid for the repair. So simple but now so, apparently, impossible!

Result now: about five mains leaks between where we live and DD's school, which is just over a mile away, that have been leaking for years. They are all on private ground but I expect the people responsible had the same problems we had trying to find someone to fix their pipes and eventually gave up. So long as water still gets to their houses, nothing will be done because it just takes too much effort and, clearly, there is no shortage of water or "the authorities" would put procedures in place which WORK!

Also farming: perhaps we shouldn't be growing so many water-needy crops?

It's a complicated issue (lots of issues!). I can see why you found it so interesting, jess. I do think Booker is right that in the end it's down to politics.

JessM Thu 17-May-12 17:43:30

I think it's down to cost and engineering *bags" - politicians pretty much out of the loop. Its in the hands of business since they were sold off.

Leakage control is a nightmare - soon as you fix some, more pop up.
When people have water meters they are keener to fix the ones on their own properties.
I suspect water companies vary in how enthusiastic they are about fixing private leaks depending on factors like - is there a water shortage in their area or not, cost of fixing leaks, regulatory regime - what are they likely to get penalised for by the regulators. Its a business decision.
Have to say that privatisation was a good thing in this particular industry - in N Ireland it never happened and their infrastructure is still in a complete shambles. This was evident in the big freeze, late in 2010. Huge areas of N Ireland were without water due to bursts. Mainland Britain did not have to suffer this problem - only v. minor in comparison. That is just one example of why we should be grateful. (I don't think this applies to other industries necessarily...)