Mark Steel: You can't bath with one jug of water?

A vital commodity will soon only be available to the privileged few

Share
Related Topics

If this was a business column I'd suggest one industry to invest in would be bailiffs. A few years ago it was hard work to be so late in paying a bill that you'd get referred to bailiffs, but now if you're 15 minutes late paying your gas bill or council tax, you get a letter saying "IF YOU DO NOT PAY THE SUM OF £253.74 PLUS £8,000 COSTS WE WILL REMOVE YOUR FLOORBOARDS, HOUSEHOLD PETS, DIALYSIS MACHINES, AND SOUL... DO NOT IGNORE THIS NOTICE."

But for Thames Water, it seems even this practice isn't threatening enough. They're pressing the Government to change the law, to allow them to punish late-payers by cutting off their water. In case we consider this a tad harsh they explain they wouldn't cut it off altogether, just "reduce it to a trickle," of around a jugful a day. Because they're full of compassion. They'll probably add, "There's no reason why this would prevent children from washing. If you look at cats for example, they lick themselves spotless, and we don't charge them anything (though we are looking at demanding a nominal charge from April next year)."

They also emphasise removing the water supply would only be a "last resort". That's reassuring, although even that's probably because if cutting you off was the first thing they did they wouldn't be able to move on to waterboarding, as they'd be holding you down while trying to wet the rag and grumbling, "This trickle's taking ages – I think we're doing this the wrong way round."

Also, anyone who's had to contact a utility about a problem with their bill knows the frustration of trying to reach them at all. We'll soon be forced to listen to a silky voice between hours of Vivaldi, telling us, "We are currently receiving a high level of calls from dying customers. Why not try later, or log on to our cholera information website."

With superb timing, this tweak to the law was suggested on the same day that Thames Water announced record profits of £605m, along with a rise in charges of around 17 per cent, from a company that in 2007 was fined £12.5m by the regulator for providing a dreadful service, and then lying about their performance on their reports. But back then they had a more liberal attitude to the law, objecting that the fine was ridiculous because, "That money could be spent improving the service for customers." Which is like someone who's fined for mugging an old aged pensioner saying, "That's ridiculous, I was planning to spend that money on improving the life of that old aged pensioner."

Maybe there's a logic to their outlook. For them water isn't so much an essential substance, it's a commodity to be sold to satisfy shareholders. Walter Letwin, the investment banker, told a conference recently that "investors will embrace this opportunity to invest in companies involved in one of the world's most vital industries – water, with its positive price dynamic, limited global supply and increasing global demand". Or he could have just said, "It's drying up but the bastards die without it – WE CAN'T LOSE – YAHOOOO!"

So before long water will be a privilege for those who can afford it, with Thames Water offering gold accounts for customers who wish to enjoy skinny latte showers, or their toilet flushed with holy water so their waste is redeemed of sin. Then Thames will branch off into life-support machines, calmly suggesting they should be allowed to turn them off if the bill isn't paid, because, "those people not paying are causing prices to rise among the honest coma community."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas