Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Widespread reports that south and southeast England are suffering a drought of 1976 proportions raise interesting problems, not least: who owns the water delivered to a consumer?  Quite draconian limitations upon water  use have been published: no garden-watering, car-washing etc;  even our windows are to maintain a steadily increasing layer of dirt.  But are there unspoken limitations on what we do with our water after we have used it?

In a country with hot, dry summers, not to mention a reasonable if needs-driven level of eco-consciousness,   everyone has installed, or will instal at the next refurbishment,   means to collect the acque chiare - rain water, kitchen run-off, shower and basin waste.  This water is theirs to use as they choose.  Bought and paid for at an ever higher price the greater the consumption.  In an eco-house the water system is almost enclosed; much of the water coming in stays.  It does not set off down the drains to be recycled by the water company and resold.

Is that the case in England? Or are we paying our bills to rent the use of water which is then mostly returned to the companies for re-renting after clean-up?   It's difficult to tell from the media announcements but they do take the form of specific prohibitions  - 'banned'  activities rather than banned mains water usage (you can leave your kitchen tap running and there's no  penalty).

Somehow it is all reminiscent of the television license fee:pay to own the set even if  BBC-watching enters the 'cruel and unusual punishment' category.  Pay for the water but you can't do what you like with it and you might as well hand it back as all the activities you would use recycled water for are banned.


Nick Drew said...

there are many instances, are there not? of very unclear 'categories' in public / private dealings

water in the UK used to be on the 'rates' (and for people who haven't had a meter installed, still is) - what kind of product or service is it ? where is 'title' to water ?

the rights to minerals etc in the USA are conferred upon the landowner; but in the UK vest in the Crown, requiring a 'licence to win and get'

education and health services (after a fashion) are 'free at the point of use' in the UK - but social housing is paid for via rent, and (if qualifying) refunded via a benefit

we should not, I think, look for philosophical clarity or consistency in government service-provision categories

dearieme said...

It's yours to use as you like. In fact, if I were to divert some of my used water out of the sewers and onto the garden I'd get a rebate from my grateful supplier.

Elby the Beserk said...

Richard North over at EU Referendum has some figures which indicate what an utter mess water supply is in the country - it appears that the amount leaked in the South East is more than the shortage which is to kick off drought prohibitions.

Were one not beyond cynical regarding the "services" provided by our utility companies, one might get angry. Instead, a long sigh is my response, translating into "Why am I not surprised?"

Oh LOOK! A Captcha WV I can read first time!

Wrong. Once more with feeling.

Blue Eyes said...

Very interesting question. I think the assumption is that the bulk of water usage comes from the mains supply so banning particular uses will cut demand. I bet the likes of Thames Water would have no problem prosecuting someone for using a hose which ran on waste or rain water, though. Maybe I am too cynical.

"you can leave your kitchen tap running and there's no penalty"

Indeed. Although when I was arguing with Thames Water about their reluctance to install a meter in my flat (because it would cost them several hundred pounds a year in lost revenue) I suggested that maybe an incentive for them would be for me to leave my taps running until the meter was installed. The chap on the phone said "if you are going to do that, we have the power to enter your home by force to investigate, this call is being recorded".

Nice guys. Nice bit of legislation.

hatfield girl said...

"we should not, I think, look for philosophical clarity or consistency in government service-provision categories".

we shouldn't look for it but perhaps we should start trying to impose it, ND. Do we want to collapse into Elby-like resignation?(well, yes, I expect. But we should try to keep up the search for the Good)

Dearieme, you have an honest supplier. Blue has Thames Water, and so have I; we share a common view of them, I suspect.