Drenched in rain, but a drought of solutions

Published: 3 May 2012 09:300 comments

SUNDAY lunchtime, and the latest inundation from the wettest April on record was drenching the verdant lushness of a back garden not obviously affected by the ravages of the drought.

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Neither was it bothering a sleek starling, busily taking a double dip in a rain-filled recession which in recent days has been steadily expanding into what any self-respecting estate agent would readily describe as a water feature.

Transforming chez moi into a tropical rain forest probably wasn't what Dave had in mind when he promised us "the greenest government ever", but little enough's been going right for him lately so I'll not disrupt his ruminations on how he'll manage to cut greenhouse gases by a fifth by 2050 without leaving the country in a permanent state of penury. And anyway it's high time the water companies started splashing out themselves.

Their Sino-Australian owners might hate being thought selfish, but they've been pretty flush since privatisation gave them control of the wealthy regional water authorities in 1984 or thereabouts. Water was once a minor extra on the rates bill, but when the regional water authorities took over they were allowed to levy a hefty precept on local councils to help them handle the legacy of an outdated, dilapidated Victorian network. Curiously, that coincided with a period when the then-Thames Water Authority, among others, became synonymous with tales of foreign junketing and champagne lifestyles regularly uncovered at riotous district auditor's hearings. But staying at luxury foreign hotels with spouses in tow didn't fully account for the hundreds of millions of pounds received annually from local councils for almost a decade until privatisation. Down which drain did that go?

Across the world they run oil pipelines up to 4,000 miles across tundra, desert or similarly inhospitable terrain. If the will existed, it surely shouldn't be beyond the wit of the water industry to be transferring nature's supplies from one end of a relatively small country to the other.

Indeed, as we're an island surrounded by the stuff, it's perhaps extraordinary that Britain's got only one barely operational desalination plant. Meanwhile, they're just getting round to mending the leaks.

IN HIS time, Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz has been suspended from Parliament, sacked from the Government and exposed for second home expenses 'flipping'; offences which were dwarfed by his crime against the English language when he told Saturday's Today programme that long queues at Heathrow arrivals are caused by border control posts which are "not personed".

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