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Our water firms are losing a trillion litres a year

Another day, another leak… a burst water main in central London. Getty

In “one of the very wettest parts of England”, after the wettest March in 40 years, South West Water has issued a hosepipe ban, says Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times. Along the coast is Southern Water, which was fined a record £90m in 2021 for 51 offences of “deliberately” releasing sewage on beaches and in rivers. All told, our privatised water companies do “about 2.7 million hours of ordure-dumping a year”. It makes you wonder why we bother installing lavatories – why not just “head for the river and cut out the middleman”? Our dilapidated water grid also lost “about a trillion litres of water through leakage” in 2021-22.

The solution is obviously investment. But if you’re a private company like Thames Water, you’d prefer to make a £400m profit, pay your chief executive £2m, and leave the infrastructure untouched. Which is why we need to renationalise our water supply. Over the past two decades, 311 cities in 36 countries have “remunicipalised” their water services because privatisation “simply didn’t work”. Affluent societies like the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark keep their water in public hands; hell, even Scotland’s nationalised water supply is managed more efficiently than England’s. And this way, “at least we will know who to blame and who should get the sack when the local beach becomes a midden heap”.