The Third Leader: Water waste

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The Independent Online

On days like these, it's reassuring to see no shortage of what is reassuring about this country. Some people, understandably, railed at the ticket collector in the outlying station last Thursday who refused to relax his fierce standards just because of extraordinary events up the line; it also spoke to me of qualities that have pulled and will pull us through.

During the Blitz, Ed Murrow's taxi passed another bombsite. His cabbie contemplated the devastation and said, "Do you know, he'll do that once too often." It is with just such a spirit that we should contemplate the arrival of the annual summer story about imminent hosepipe bans while water leaks away in London alone at a daily rate sufficient to fill 366 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Splendid though this aide-memoire for 2012 is, it must be time for an official unit of leak. How about a bucket, a saucepan, a sieve, or a water company executive's pocket? Could not our usual units of measurement, Wales and the Isle of Wight, be adapted in some way? And there's always the Dome.

It's good, too, to greet our old friends, "unacceptable", "top priority", "unusual stresses", "real progress", "narrowly missed our target", "driest winter and spring for 100 years", and, of course, "global warming". And, with that famous Whitehall touch, the release of two reports into the floods in the North last January.

Besides being able to take it, we also pride ourselves on our ability to adapt and improvise; and so it is I ask you to salute the Oates family, farmers on the Lizard, who have just imported eight Bactrian camels into Cornwall. Showers today, by the way.