Having seen all the talk on the news today about drought in the east of England and long-term aspirations for a ‘Water Grid’ to pipe water from the wetter West of the UK to the dry East, I think we in the West need to put down a marker that while there may be opportunities to pipe surplus water to the east, we should not be forced to pick up the tab for it. For decades, West residents, particularly those in Devon and Cornwall, have been forking out thousands in high water/sewerage charges to cover the huge temporary influx of seasonal tourists. I’ve always felt that it was grossly unfair to force low-wage areas, such as Cornwall, to pay for infrastructure with many more times capacity than the population itself requires. Critics of this view point to the economic benefits that tourism brings to the Westcountry but I would argue that it is inequitable to lump these high charges onto West residents in exchange for jobs which are seasonal and often low-paid.
The tourists that visit the Westcountry do not have to contribute to these high infrastructure costs and, by the same token, Westcountry residents should not have to contribute to the probably enormous cost of providing piping and pumping infrastructure to move water eastwards. We also need to be very clear that we have surplus water stock before agreeing to share our supplies with other regions. I would be particularly concerned to find that part of this plan is the creation of additional reservoirs in the Westcountry, with all the attendant environmental damage and dislocation that they bring. As with energy usage in this Country, we must take all measures to conserve water both at the point of use and through addressing chronic leakage issues before looking at additional reservoir capacity.
This plan may appear a long-way off but in my experience it is wise to set out your stall early.