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Loss of toilets reflects decades of decline in funding for water companies in England

A river of toilets that flowed into Tommy Stadlen’s home in west London left his pregnant wife at the waist of the water, dead rats flooding in his neighbor’s room – and a strong belief that the water bills he had paid for 15 years existed. was not provided with the type of service expected.

What caused the floods, which blocked roads, subway stations with stores in the British capital in July, it was a heavy downpour that delivered a month-long rain in 90 minutes.

But despite the bad weather, overpopulation and endless population growth contributed to the toxic flood, it was also the result of decades of lack of funding for the country’s water supply.

“It has the richest region, one of the richest countries in the world but it has no garbage dumps,” Stadlen, a professional businessman, told the Kensington town hall. Thames water and many other depressed residents of the area in September.

Although public outcry over the water industry has been raging for years, it has been erupting in recent months, as unknown water and storm water are repeatedly poured into Britain’s rivers and lakes, increasing pressure on governments and authorities to take action. .

The companies are now facing the biggest protests since they were formed more than 30 years ago, as campaigners, from the Windrush Against Sewage in Oxfordshire to the Ilkley Clean River in Yorkshire, try to force companies and policy makers.

Their efforts have received support and publicity from celebrities including Feargal Sharkey, whose Twitter campaign helped get a vote in parliament to address toilet pollution, and Bob Geldof, who has urged residents near his home in a coastal town in Kent to pay off their water bills.

The main goal of the campaigners was to flood the storm – 15,000 pipes that flush toilets in rivers and lakes when it rains.

Despite the unpleasant consequences for swimmers and wildlife, the amount of such waste is permitted under Environmental Agency regulations. But until recently most of the pipelines were not inspected and water companies were held accountable for their breach. Environmentalists have launched an investigation into whether the companies have been sustainable legal limits.

The new Environmental Act requires water and sanitation companies to reduce flooding, but no set of guidelines or objectives can be considered. The government should announce a new flood reduction plan by September 2022.

But if the pressure to change is there, the money is gone. This month, the factory manager, Ofwat, warned that at least two – Southern Water and Yorkshire Water – were. good economic health in March that there were concerns about their ability to improve the environment. Yorkshire Water said its “economy is strong and resilient.” Southern was taken over by Australia’s construction manager Macquarie.

Investment declined as profits moved

The establishment of water retailers in England and Wales 30 years ago came with the promise that investors would improve the demand for declining water systems.

Although there was an initial rise in costs, as some companies sought to meet European water standards, a study by the Financial Times showed that total expenditures by the 10 largest water and sanitation companies had dropped by 15 percent since 1990s – from £ 5.7bn to £ 4.8bn per year.

The only exception is Thames Water, which has increased revenue, though not enough to prevent leaks and burst pipes.

At the same time companies – which were sold without credit and given £ 1.5bn – rented £ 53bn, equivalent to £ 2,000 at home. Most of them were not used to make new money but to pay £ 72bn.

“The goal of the private water industry has been to become more profitable,” said Dieter Helm, a clinical specialist at Oxford University.

Old pipes cost money

The concern here is that with so many labor and construction debts to be maintained, water companies have little money to upgrade their Victorian-era pipelines, although consumer debt has risen nearly a third since 1991.

An executive of water companies says that companies are spending a lot of money “on managing depleted resources rather than repaying them.” He also mentioned the use of water jets to deal with blockages as an example. “This is a substitute for struggling to repair sewage networks, and it will help prevent leaks,” he said.

Olivia Jensen, a leading scientist at the National University of Singapore, said in Singapore the government department overseeing an effective management system in addition to measures to detect losses. “This is very different from England, where the emphasis has been on squeezing more of the existing system instead of building a system that will work better in the future,” he said.

Ofwat, which limits the amount of water companies can raise from debt to use, said total revenue including repairs rose by 42 percent, from £ 3.9bn to £ 5.6bn a year since the 1990s. It also stated that some funds, such as fixed canal services, would not be included in the total amount of money spent.

There has also been a change in the visibility surrounding the leak of toilets, with new electronic lighting devices installed on the pipes. Water companies will need to spread the storm within an hour to make it work, which does not reduce pollution but helps to protect public health by issuing warnings.

But that still does not solve the problem of how to pay for renovations to reduce the flow of toilets.

The latest government sent report estimates the cost of overcoming the hurricane between £ 350bn and £ 600bn – an insurmountable cost to companies that could add about $ 1,000 to annual customer bills.

Even small increments – such as reducing losses in “affected areas” by three-quarters – could cost £ 18bn, the report said.

However, many companies believe they can do better at lower prices.

Southern water, which received an emergency injection of £ 1bn from Macquarie in August, a month after the company was hit with a £ 90m fine for dumping billions of gallons of sewage into rivers and lakes, has promised to halve the pollution by 2024 compared to 2019, and ensure bills does not rise above inflation.

It estimates the cost of replacing all of its toilet disposal nets at a cost of £ 50bn – but will complete major renovations to existing facilities, half of which were built before the 1970s, at a cost of £ 2bn.

The corporation, Water UK, said it “compels the government to encourage Ofwat to adopt measures that meet the requirements…. 2030. ”

But Ofwat said companies “need to focus more on improving their performance before asking for more money from customers”. “The water companies have a lot of money to spend, and have agreed to provide £ 50bn. For the next five years.”

Helm said it was “impossible” for the regulator to allow companies to raise enough prices to pay for the amount of repairs needed in the next period, especially when customers struggle with falling prices and rising interest rates. He said a major overhaul of the management’s logistics management system. Some, like We Own It, a campaign group, want people to change.

Back in Kensington, Stadlen vowed to fight in behalf of the flood victims. “We will not allow non-working executives and low-income companies to fail,” he said at a September meeting.

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