Europe is in the grip of the worst drought in 500 years. ‘Hunger stones’ in the rivers Elbe and Rhine have been revealed by plummeting water levels. Wildfires are raging across the continent.

The UK has not escaped. Our gardens and fields are brown, trees are dropping their leaves in stress, ponds, rivers and streams are drying up. Firefighters are tackling an unprecedented number of fires. This is unlikely to be a one-off. Scientists predict we’ll see more droughts due to human-induced climate change.

Privatised water companies are under fire for serious lack of investment in our water infrastructure, presiding over reckless levels of water leaks and poisoning our water courses. It’s clear their priority lies with providing profits to their shareholders rather than as responsible custodians of our precious resource.

Water should be a common good. In my view, it must be taken back into public ownership. No private company should have the right to ‘own’ a resource taken from nature that we all need in order to thrive. I hope this will be a key issue in the next general election, and I’ll be putting my cross next to the political party that has a solid plan to tackle the problem.

In the meantime – as usual – it’s up to citizens to respond to the crisis. What can we do at home to conserve water? Irrigate our gardens with grey water from the bath or washing up bowl. Let our lawns go brown. Get free water saving devices from Bristol Water. Turn the tap off when we’re cleaning our teeth or washing our hands. Check for leaking loos.

Whilst it’s not fair that citizens have to suffer the consequences of private greed, it’s the only thing we can do until we get a chance to show our discontent at the ballot box. In the meantime, we could write to our parliamentary representatives and the CEOs of the water companies and express our anger at the egregious mishandling of this most precious resource.


This article was first published in the Keynsham Voice – September 2022

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash