It has become quite deliberate government policy to keep Britain short of water. The explanation for this baffling volte-face lies in a “Communication” issued in 2007 by the European Commission “addressing the challenge of water scarcity and droughts in the European Union”. This document was based on the belief that Europe was facing a water crisis due to global warming.
The great water shambles, as we know, centres on two major failings of national policy. One is the water companies’ failure to plug the leaks that are costing us nearly as much water every two years as is contained in all our reservoirs. The other is their failure to add to that reservoir capacity, which has barely increased in the 20 years since water was privatised, despite our 10 per cent growth in population.
What makes this particularly odd, however, is that only a few years back, the last government was gung-ho about the companies’ plans to build five major new reservoirs in the south of England alone, where the shortage is most acute, and to extend three others. So what happened to all those plans? One after another they have all been shelved or turned down altogether by the Government, as when last year our Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, vetoed Thames Water’s plan for a huge £1 billion new reservoir near Abingdon, saying that there was “no immediate need” for new reservoir building. This was only months after she had sent back to the drawing board another well-advanced scheme near Portsmouth.