July 2012: A drought in Surrey?

Today it rained and tomorrow it will rain and also, according to the forecast, it will rain on Wednesday. June has been the wettest on record – to go with a wet May and an even wetter April. And yet our local water company, Veolia, is declaring a drought and the hosepipe ban is in full force. My garden does not look as though it is suffering from a lack of water – even before it started raining in April. Just what is Veolia trying to prove? That the amount of water saved from a hosepipe ban during the wettest summer on record will fill the aquifers? In which case, it is the wet summer not the hosepipe ban that is the cause.

As I drive over the Thames each morning on my way to work, I am constantly amazed a the level of the Thames at Walton. Not high enough to flood, but high enough. Now remind me. Is there not a myth that the water is taken out of the river at the pumping station to supply the local population. If that is the case, why are we on drought alert? Using the water at Walton for water supply would surely be preferable to allowing this water to flow out to sea. If our water does come from the pumping station, then why are we subject to drought restrictions when there is plainly not a water shortage in this area?

Perhaps I also take exception to use of the word drought. A real drought is when it does not rain for months if not years. It is when nothing grows and much dies. It is when vegetation catches fire spontaneously. A drought is not when you have to keep listening for flood alerts. It is not when your strawberries and raspberries rot because it keeps raining.

But Veolia says there is a drought. And they have spent the princely sum of £30 million to fix the leaks. They are also spending money to educate the consumer. And at the same time, they are have to pay off a massive debt. There is no money for the sort of investment in infrastructure that is really needed. It is definitely true that the bulk of the population lives in the south-east, but the water surplus in sin the north and west of the country. What is needed is a scheme to harness the water surplus in one part of the country to ensure that eh southeast does not go short. Such problems could be solved by the Romans 2000 years ago – but not in seems, the British in the 21st Century.

Veolia – the only drought you have is one of your own making. So get real.