Britain's rainfall is nothing if not variable and, in the Southeast and Eastern parts of the country, we are currently undergoing one of those periodic rainfall deficits. The rainfall in January in the Southeast region is down to 66 percent of the long-term average.
Predictably, though, the supply industry is failing to step up to the plate, and widespread shortages in local stocks are reported, even if overall reservoir stocks in England and Wales are 90 percent of capacity. With mandatory restrictions on use being imposed, the domestic consumer is paying for a product they are not getting, and are fined up to £1000 if they actually dare to use it under certain circumstances.
Needless to say, it does not stop there. We get the classic response this via Michael Norton of the Institute of Civil Engineers, where we are told that we must pay even more for the product we are not getting. And, with the usual dire predictability, we get the media opening its arms to the flood of propaganda, without in any way mentioning the underlying problems that have brought us to this situation.
Firstly, of course, with near unrestricted immigration having been allowed, the UK population has grown from 56 million since water privatisation in the 1980s to 62 million currently (2010), an increase of nearly eleven percent. Just to stand still, therefore, the water companies should have been increasing their storage capacity by that amount – but actually more in the Southeast and Eastern parts of the country, where immigration has been highest.
Currently, the total reservoir capacity of water companies in England and Wales is reported at 520 billion gallons, a figure that has been virtually static since privatisation, when even then storage capacity was deemed to be insufficient.
But as well as paying directors and chief executives enhanced salaries, and repaying loans incurred by largely foreign owners, our money – over £65 billion of it - has gone on meeting irrelevant EU purity standards and other diktats.
Only a fraction of this level of expenditure has gone on the other side of the supply equation, renewing the creaking infrastructure in order to reduce the torrent of leaks. Time and again, companies fail to meet annual targets, with our old favourite here, Yorkshire Water losing 72 million gallons a day through leakage, nine percent above its target of 66 million gallons.
That is equivalent to 26 billion gallons a year, or five percent of the total storage capacity in England and Wales, amounting to half the current shortfall. And that is just one water authority.
Putting all this together, the real problems with our water supply are inadequate investment in storage capacity, which was inadequate before even our population increased by eleven percent, inadequate spending on leak prevention, all combined with excessive expenditure on EU measures.
The ultimate irony is that, with the increased size of the customer base must come increased funding, yet to make up for the deficiencies in the supply, we the customers are to be told that we must now be prepared to pay more.
Although a supporter of Thatcher's privatisation, I have never liked water privatisation, which has simply shifted monopolies from the public to the private sector, with nothing much to show for it other than increased charges.
When, as is the case, these companies fail to deliver the product for which we pay, and then want more money even to provide a basic service, this amounts to corporate blackmail. From unacceptable, we are moving to the intolerable.