Putting water back into public hands would not end the need for hosepipe bans, but it would make them a lot less frequent. For starters, there is over £13.5bn paid to shareholders in the past 8 years that could be spent fixing leaking pipes that leaked away 20% of the treated clean water. That’s £13.5 billion, not million. That means pipes fixed, new sewers constructed and prices held down.
Privatisation has not been a success for anyone except the fat cat directors and the shareholders. There are regular bouts of misery reported from around the country, as burst pipes cause disruption and local flooding. The Green Party’s co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, reported from his neighbourhood last year: “Shocking to return to #Streatham and find thousands of households without water. @thameswater paid out £100m in dividends last year – much of it to big foreign investors. Water is leaking because money – that should be invested in renewing our water infrastructure – is leaking.”
We should all take some responsibility and do our best to reduce the amount of water we use and to reuse water as much as possible for activities like watering the garden. There are lots of useful tips online, but the big water losses only the water companies can fix.
Despite all the media noise about tougher regulation of the water companies, the Guardian produced figures last year to show that the leaks were getting worse, plus our environment suffers from too much water being taken from it. Meanwhile, prices have increased by 40% since privatisation. The only solution that will work properly is public ownership and democratic control.