Village springs to defence of its water supply

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The Independent Online

The hot weather has finally caught up with the 129 custom-ers of what is believed to be Bri-tain's smallest water company.

Customers in Cwmdu, Powys, who are supplied with spring water by the Cwmdu Water Undertaking, have been told to stop using hosepipes on their gardens.

The water - which is so pure that the only addition is an occasional splash of Milton sterilising liquid when bacteria levels creep up - has been the sole supply to the village in the Brecon Beacons for as long as anyone can remember.

The undertaking's chairman Gwyn Williams, who also runs the local bus company, said: "We have asked people not to use the hosepipes so that we can preserve the sources. The springs are running a bit slower than usual, but there are no real problems. As far as I am aware the springs have never run out."

The undertaking is run by a committee of 12 who are elected by consumers in the 50 properties in the village. Each household pays pounds 40, compared to an average charge of about pounds 130 for their neighbours supplied by Welsh Water.

There are no full-time or paid staff in Cwmdu and the pipes and springs are checked on a rota basis by members of the management committee working in pairs. Any day-to-day work is done by volunteers.

Unlike the big water companies, Cwmdu's losses through leakage are minimal. "We try to keep everything very tight. Members of the committee keep a very close eye on all the supplies and pipes and because we are so small we can take action to sort out any problems," said Mr Williams.

Jeanette Baker, who recently returned to the village after a period away, said: "When you taste other water you can tell the difference. There is nothing added to this, and it's like having bottled water coming out of the tap. People pay a lot to have water like this in bottles, but we pay much less than people in the next village who have ordinary mains water."

The sources of the spring water for Cwmdu are believed to be several hundred feet underground in the Black Mountains. There is little or no risk of pollution because of the absence of industry and intensive farming in an area about 1,000 feet above sea level.