Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Flush Of Reality For Sun Readers

We had a meeting at work this morning. Nothing unusual about that: meetings happen all the time. But something that was highlighted in it, today, was this article in that most honest and factual of British daily publications, The Sun "newspaper":


I bet some of you out there did read this. One or two people may even see (and read) this who are connected with the water supply industry. Those of you who haven't read it before but have now have probably had a bit of a tut, a quick shake of the head, or maybe paused and wondered why I'm referencing it at all.

Because it's your fault.

"Really, Ed?" I hear you ask. "How can the water companies wasting millions of gallons of water be our fault?"

Well, apparently you (like me) like nice crystal clear water coming out of your taps. When it comes out and it's a funny colour or it's a bit cloudy you complain. Or you flush it down the drain, complain, and then fill up again hoping it's okay second time around. And let's face it: we do like crystal clear water. We like it there, in our taps, all the time. And the water companies have an obligation to make sure that this is the case. At our place it's called the Always On programme, and a lot of people put a lot of time and effort into making sure that it's effective.

The water does not always run clear. Water isn't even naturally clear. It carries all sorts of bits in it as it travels, be it in a stream, a river, a water main, or even down from the sky. But your water company filters out as much crap as is possible before it gets to your tap. Sometimes the process of making sure this happens means getting some of that crap out of the water network, and that was what was happening in the examples The Sun cited. The areas being flushed out were prone to discolouration, which means customers complaining, which means Ofwat and the DWI getting heavy with the water company for poor customer service.

It really is a no-win situation for the water companies, and just as much for us poor mugs out in the field. If you carry out the actions required to maintain that water, crystal clear, you're wasting millions of gallons. If you stop doing it, you're not fulfilling your obligations to your paying customers to give them what the nation demands.

So how about it folks? How important is it to you that the water's crystal clear, now so many places face drought conditions? Did you know that not flushing that water out after a repair to the supply can mean that all sorts of unpleasant bacteria and general detritus can get into your taps? We've not had cholera for years...

On another point of the article: Thames Water might have nearly 9 million customers, but it's also in one of the most densely populated places in the world. People. Buildings. Roads. Lighting. Telegraph poles. Shopping Centres. Factories. Offices. These are all things that have to be taken into consideration when work is carried out on the water infrastructure. I won't go into detail because I blogged about it in a guest post for my friend Sharon, and you can read it here if you want to know more.

I'd just like people to take into account that water does not magically come out of their taps. I'd also like them to know it doesn't magically fall directly out of each raincloud into the exact location of every reservoir in the UK. We're doing our bit to make sure the water's where it's supposed to be, all the time. The Sun, as always, are resorting to half-arsed sensationalism with half the facts and no genuine consideration for what is actually happening in the real world.

On the plus side, the Government hasn't told us all to start hoarding water*. I guess it's just not that precious a commodity in the First World. Remember that the next time you see a real drought - the ones in Africa, for example - on the news.

*Probably because journalists from The Sun will manage to set themselves on fire with it.