We are in the drought wars. In Halifax and Huddersfield - Yorkshire Water's "phase one districts" - the warnings have been dire for weeks. We have had the health authority claiming the situation was going to get medieval, as we would return to the very crudest forms of sanitation. There have been warnings that when the water company started cutting off our supplies every other day (which everyone has been expecting any day), we would all fall prey to dysentery. My son's headmistress has been fretting about how she will have to shut the school on those waterless days: 150 five to seven-year-olds use the loos a lot, and what could she do?

Everyone is gripped by drought fever. The landlord at my local claims he has been doing rain dances on the lawn after closing each night. There has been much talk of how no water would put local businesses under pressure, and there have been so many seething voices on the radio phone-ins railing about leaky pipes and share options that "God's own county" was obviously in a spot of difficulty.

It is calling forth the wartime analogy, if not the wartime spirit. My father-in-law (not a man inclined to overstatement) claims this is the biggest problem to face West Yorkshire since World War Two. It has looked so bleak that a Yorkshire Water spokesman has been regularly heard on Radio 4's Today programme, explaining that the absence of rainfall was a once-in-800-year freak accident. Nevertheless, Yorkshire's reputation for uncertain water supplies and possibly unhealthy water has been assured by the events of this year.

But discovering the scale of the crisis afflicting us in Yorkshire has been more difficult. When I called Yorkshire Water's information service, I spoke to a very pleasant woman. "When could we expect these cuts to kick in?" I asked. She replied (this is the information service, mind), "I have no information."

The press office in Leeds was more together. A few days ago, Yorkshire Water decided not to cut off the water at all, or at least not until early January. The water wars seem to have been postponed, we can emerge from the dug-outs and relax. There was a spot of rain the other day, and Yorkshire Water's prodigious tankering efforts are paying off (and keeping the nation's lorry drivers in greasy breakfasts round the clock).

The threats of impending shortages have had their effect. None of us is probably going as far as Yorkshire Water's chairman, who claimed he could wash, shave, brush his teeth, do his dishes and rinse out his dirty socks in a single bowl of water. But we have been scared into cutting back a bit (cars in Yorkshire must be the dirtiest in the land by now) and closing the toilet lid.

But most Yorkshire people who heeded the warnings have a new problem: not a water shortage but a water glut - mineral water, that is. Many folk in Yorkshire find the idea of paying for bottled water almost unnatural. Yet when the warnings of impending shortages were at their peak, I joined the queues to buy mine. And now my kitchen is groaning with the stuff.

If Yorkshire Water is not going to turn off the taps, what are we supposed to do with all this bottled stuff? Have a bath in it? We would never live it down.

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