Wicked Leaks

Generally I applaud those who leak information into the public domain; there is a long and noble history of whistle blowers whose activities have benefited society and helped strengthen that precious and diminishing resource – freedom.

There is another precious and diminishing resource that is threatened – water. Whether it will be climate change that finally kills off humanity or shortage of water that does, is rather hard to judge right now. A cynic would argue that water shortages would, in the immortal words of Mr Ebenezer Scrooge, reduce the surplus population. Reducing the surplus population by drought might well slow the rate of climate change marginally, but most would think it a poor solution to climate change.

In England and Wales water is a precious resource. There is much greater rainfall in the West of the British Isles than there is in the eastern part of those islands, in places of high density population and low rainfall. Most people think of London as a rainy old city but in fact annually it has about the same amount of rainfall as Athens.

As you would expect in places where water is becoming scarcer, the government tries to prevent water being wasted. Most water is wasted from leaking pipes and the government has decreed that the water regulator, OFWAT, should set leakage targets for each water company. Most water companies are quite close to their targets but Yorkshire Water allowed 295 million litres of water a day yo leak through its pipes, coming in with 7.3% over target.

Now you can bet as sure as eggs are eggs that when a government appoints a regulator to set targets and the regulator sets targets, those targets will be lower than the targets that the environment or circumstances require. This is vividly illustrated by the emissions targets that have been set; to stand still on (stand still not reverse) climate change (assuming it is caused by human carbon dioxide emissions) we need, as a planet, to stop people producing half the carbon dioxide we are producing right now. No government as set a target anywhere close to this. There are big promises in ten or twenty years time, but no one is even close to a fifty percent reduction target.

So I imagine the OFWAT targets are a compromise between what is actually needed and what the water companies actually want to spend in stopping leaks. I understand that the cold winter of last year will have caused more pipes to burst than usual, but if water is a precious resource we have to devise a means of making it either more profitable or less expensive for water companies to stop up leaks than to leave them alone.

5 Responses

  1. “No government as set ”
    has (not as)


    the problem is deep and political!

    the new UK goverment is ready to face it?

  2. It’s ridiculous to say there’s a shortage of water. It’s infinitely sustainable and unlike fossil fuels it does not get used up, just recyled.

    Any shortages in the UK are due to poor planning at government level.

    If the same arguments were used for electricity we would all have to live next to a power station.

    It is perfectly possible to have a water “grid” just like electricity so that areas of abundance could feed towns/cities etc. Problem is that water companies wont invest. Why should they. Its much easier to charge more for less and brainwash us into beliving that water is scarce.

    Before the water companies were sold off, abundant free to use water was considered essential to health. What’s changed?…… well now someone wants to make a profit rather than provide a public service.

  3. I agree with Chris Calcroft, there is no shortage of water, just greedy water companies who will not invest, more concerened with keeping their shareholders happy then the end user

  4. Hey Robert ! Too many targets, how do you pleads guilty or not guilty !!!!!

    ‘….Now you can bet as sure as eggs are eggs that when a government appoints a regulator to set targets and the regulator sets targets (( those targets )) , [which] will be lower than the targets that the environment or circumstances require…’

    I suggest you replace the ‘those targets’ with ‘which’ it would read easier ! !

    Best Regards Peter

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