Sunday, July 03, 2011

Forever failing to perform

Water companies are draining the nation's most at-risk rivers dry, causing environmental damage, death to wildlife and the build-up of chemicals that upset fragile aquatic ecosystems, all of which could result in ever-higher bills for consumers.

So says the Independent on Sunday, citing an as-yet-unpublished report from the Policy Exchange – it is not due out until tomorrow.

What the paper deigns to tells us of the report, though, makes for disturbing reading, on several counts. Up front, though, what is worrying is the warning that "the cost of remedy" may be passed to consumers – the typical response to any problem ... we pay more.

I have greater concern, however, about what has not been said. And in this, we have been there before. Back in July 2007, we had Booker reporting once again that implementing EU directives had so far cost £65 billion, then in the context of Baroness Young warning that we faced soaring water bills to pay for the deficiencies in "infrastructure" brought to light by the then recent floods.

In the context of the current concern, the relevant parts of the "infrastructure" are reservoirs and the distribution system. On the one hand, spending on new reservoirs has been pitifully inadequate while, on the other, leakage rates continue to be intolerable.

Add to that, the inherent incompetence and inefficiencies of the water companies, and their "obscene bonuses" and it comes as absolutely no surprise that we have a dysfunctional industry that is forever failing to perform, and coming back to us with its hand out for more money.

Another thing we must observe is that the great experiment in privatisation – the jewel in the crown of the Thatcher regime – is looking less brilliant as the years go by. Certainly, the "gem" of water privatisation is looking more like tacky paste, with no prospect of any improvement. Once again, it seems, we've been had.