LETTER: Who pays when water demand exceeds supply?

From Mr Martin Atkinson

Sir: It must be a great business to have shares in if, when the supply is reduced or cut off, the income of the business remains constant. This product is collected free. It literally falls out of the sky. It is, of course, water. Domestic consumers, who generally pay a flat charge for water, have been banned from using hosepipes and sprinklers in many parts of the country. They still have to pay the same rates, even though they are using less, hence maintaining water companies' income.

It is probably only coincidental that commercial users, who are generally metered, do not suffer restrictions, as this would affect the water companies' income as less water would be used.

Our area recently suffered a drop in water pressure which meant our water tanks in the roof were not refilling. We were not warned and the water ran out, leaving only the kitchen tap working. I rang the emergency phone number which was 60 miles away and was told that we were suffering low water pressure until further notice. You don't say! No explanation was given, nor the likely duration. We have six washing and toileting adults in our house and, after several unhelpful calls to Thames Water and fearing growing insanitary conditions, I eventually rang Ofwat, who got a TW engineer to ring me back. Apparently, the pressure drop was due to them filling a new reservoir in the area. She was helpful but pointed out that the water authorities were only obliged by law to maintain a supply of drinking water to the kitchen tap and did not have to guarantee the water pressure to a consumer.

Of course, we were still obliged to pay our full water rate, despite "our" water being used for a new reservoir. So much for the Citizen's Charter.

Yours faithfully,

Martin Atkinson

London, N19

19 August