From British daily The Independent:
Blair’s ‘Watergate‘: A leak too far at Number 10
Government’s own watchdog says Downing Street wastes vast amounts of water
By Francis Elliott, Severin Carrell and Geoffrey Lean
Published: 25 June 2006
Tony Blair is facing his very own Watergate at No 10 as he stands condemned this weekend by his official environmental advisers for wasting massive amounts of water in the official prime ministerial residence.
The Independent on Sunday can disclose that the government department that runs the building is the most profligate in Whitehall, soaking up four times as much water as it should because it has failed to plug leaky pipes.
The Sustainable Development Commission, the Prime Minister’s own green watchdog, says it is “seriously disappointed”.
The disclosure comes amid growing public disquiet at having to stop watering gardens or washing cars while massive amounts of water are wasted.
A recent opinion poll showed that nine out of 10 Britons thought water companies should be made to fix all leaks before being allowed to take any profits.
Last week Thames Water was chastised by the regulator for failing to meet targets to reduce leakage for a fifth successive year while making profits of £364m.
It paid its German boss £8m and imposed record price increases on customers.
The firm, which has applied to impose drought orders on its eight million customers, says it may continue to miss leak-reduction targets for three more years.
And documents seen by The Independent on Sunday show it is selling scores of millions of litres of water to a neighbouring area that is not planning any hosepipe bans or restrictions.
Earlier this month Thames applied for emergency powers to impose draconian restrictions on “non-essential” use of water by Londoners, including a possible ban on washing trains and aeroplanes unless safety is at risk.
Downing Street’s water wastage is revealed by official figures showing the Cabinet Office uses 30.07 cubic metres of water per person every year.
This is almost four times the official target of 7.7 cubic meters per person, and the worst performance of any government department.
The Sustainable Development Commission said yesterday that it wants “an explanation for this continued poor performance” and expects “steps to address it”.
The disclosure is bound to increase anger at the way water companies and official bodies allow vast amounts of water to leak from their pipes at a time when draconian restrictions are being imposed on the public.
Thames Water leaks 894 million litres every day, enough to supply a city the size of Leeds, and is facing fines of £140m for failing to meet its leakage targets.
In parts of north London more water escapes from pipes than reaches consumers.
A Populus poll for the BBC found that 89 per cent of Britons think “water companies should be required to completely fix all the leaks before they are allowed to keep any profit”.
Eighty-two per cent insist that “the amount that could be saved by people using less water at home is nothing compared to what the water companies [could] save through [fixing] leaks”, and 56 per cent want the water industry to be “renationalised”.
Blair and ex-Minister Clarke: here.
Thames water scandal in Scotland: here.
The United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a “human right” on Wednesday in a general assembly resolution that the United States and Britain didn’t support: here.