Watergate – the new Watergate?

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Nothing riles the Brits more than being told what to do – and, with the introduction of a hosepipe ban, it looks like the UK’s water companies could do with a PR push to weather the storm.

From today, (April 5th) more than 20 million people in England’s ‘green and pleasant land’, face a fine of up to £1,000 for simply watering the garden or washing their car.

The water companies claim it’s a necessary measure due to the driest conditions the UK has suffered since 1976, but rightly or wrongly, consumers only see one thing – a lack of investment into water pipes which are leaking millions of gallons of water every day.

A quick look at internet message boards and comment sections quickly highlights the mood of exasperated consumers. They can’t switch water suppliers and can’t understand why, if oil and gas can be piped across continents, water can’t be piped from North to South?    

Consumers want to know why water companies are not fixing leaky pipes and why (in their view) shareholders and directors are receiving big dividends at a time when money should be being pumped into infrastructure improvements.

The Government can’t be best pleased either, with the hosepipe ban further denting their tarnished image and coming hot on the heels of Pastygate and the Granny Tax.

Whatever the reality, the perception of the water businesses is that they are more interested in profit than service and simply stating dry conditions are to blame is not enough.

The big businesses in charge of running our water supplies need to take a pro-active stance and begin educating and explaining exactly what they are doing to tackle water wastage and leaks from their end. They also need to highlight the costs and investment they are putting in place.

The bottom line is water companies will not be able to convince anyone to save water with good grace, if they are not seen to be doing it themselves.