"The arms that you wield now are not such as your forefathers wielded; but they are infinitely more effective, and infinitely more irresistable" ~ Cymru Fydd leaflet, 1890

Friday 24 February 2012

Who owns Welsh water?

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Initially it might sound like a fairly bizarre question. Surely Welsh water belongs to Wales?

And once again the subject is being brought up in the media. Which isn't a surprise considering certain areas of the UK are almost in a continual state of drought. I'll come back to that later.

Let's look back to the 70s first, in particular to the Water Act 1973. This act restructured the water authorities in England and Wales ready for privatisation in the 80s. There is a full list of these here, but as always we only care about the ones that involve Wales. I will add that I will leave out Dee Valley Water and concentrate on the big two. I have also asked both Severn Trent and Dŵr Cymru for a complete list of their reservoirs in Wales to enable a more in depth analysis. Until then let's just focus on what can be found with a quick google.

Severn Trent. This started life as an amalgamation of 20 or so public sector water authorities, one of which was Montgomeryshire. One of the original counties of Wales and now part of Powys. They also own reservoirs in Wales.

If you are a Welsh based customer of Severn Trent I would be wondering why areas in Wales that are unmetered pay more for their water than similar areas in England. Here's the pricing guide for 2011-12 so you can check it yourself.

Clywedog reservoir, near Llandiloes in Powys. Built by damming the Afon Clywedog in 1967 to supply water to Birmingham and the Midlands. It's the tallest concrete dam in the UK with a height of 72m and a water volume of 50,000 mega litres. Let's pause right there, because I'm not sure what a mega litre is. Using this handy conversion tool I can now tell you that 50,000 ML is 50,000,000,000 Litres. So we've looked at one reservoir, built in Wales by England to supply England with Welsh water that is managed by a HQ in England that is capable of storing fifty billion litres of water.

Lake Vyrnwy, Powys. Built by flooding the Welsh village of Llanwddyn to supply Liverpool and Merseyside. It has a volume of 59,666 ML. So that's just under 60 billion litres of our water.

I don't know about you but those numbers make my head hurt. We've only looked at two English owned reservoirs in Wales yet they can provide up to 110 billion litres of water for England. Let's try and put those numbers into some perspective without resorting to Olympic sized clichés.

The BBC's diet and nutrition expert Dr Toni Steer recommends that the average adult needs between 1.5 and 3 litres of water per day.

Now let's assume that Wales' population of 3 million are all adults and all require 3 litres per day. That works out as 9,000,000 litres that Wales needs per day. or 3,285,000,000 litres per year.

Now you divide the 110 billion by our yearly requirement and we have enough to supply Wales for 33 years. Obviously that factors in no loss through evaporation and not washing (I'll cover that later), but it also factors in no more rain. Plus it's only two reservoirs in Wales. 81 more are owned by Dŵr Cymru.

So what about Dŵr Cymru, they are Welsh. Aren't they?

Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water is owned by Glas Cymru, purchased for £1 back in 2001 after the previous company, Hyder went belly up after a decade of capitalist greed post privitisation left it with £1.85 billion in debts. It's limited to water only business dealings and is designed to be run solely for the benefit of its customers. Not all of these customers are in Wales. They also supply to customers over the border. That was the short, polite and politically correct answer, there is a longer, more in depth answer in this very good article by Glasiad ap Gruffydd.

I've taken the following from the website of DCWW.

Welsh Water is the regulated company that provides water supply and sewerage services to over three million people living and working in Wales and some adjoining areas of England.

We have 1.2 million household customers and over 110,000 business customers making us the sixth largest of the 23 regulated water companies in England and Wales.

So that's over 3 million people per day. Conveniently that is also the same number as the total population of Wales. This time, all these millions of litres of water they supply every single day does include washing, flushing toilets, washing the car, watering the garden, filling your pond and all those other things we and many across the border who are with Dŵr Cymru use our drinking water to do.

So anything else, such as the 110 billion litres in those two reservoirs in Powys is just a bonus, right? And if we were in a position where we were capable of selling our water then it would make financial sense to boost the potential on our terms. If we wanted to create a new reservoir or expand an existing one it would be our choice.

So we already know we have plenty of water for us that's fairly obvious. And as the following graphic from Defra shows Wales doesn't have any real issue with water stress. Which is just as well for our English neighbours whose continuing fascination with growth in one corner of the UK means that (according to Defra) there is "very little water available" to them.

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If you hadn't worked it out by now, that one corner where they focus all the growth is also the driest corner of the UK too. The following graphic depicts average annual rainfall for the UK for the 30 years between 1971-2000.

If you visit this link you can play about with the interactive maps on the Met Office website. Find out how many days of rainfall, average temperature, hours of sunshine etc. They are point to the one corner of England being warmer, drier and sunnier than the rest of the UK.

In fact according to some, parts of south east England could be classed as being a semidesert.

So we've established that England has destroyed Welsh communities for the sole benefit of supplying Welsh water to England.

We've established that Wales is more than self sufficient in Water and an exporter.

We've established that many people in Wales pay more for our water than the English pay for our water.

And we've also established that England simply could not survive without taking our water.

So why can't we do anything about it? Well the problem we have in Wales is what is known as the funding gap, that is the deficit between what Wales earns and what Wales needs to earn. Otherwise known in some circles of Wales as "we are too poor, too weak and too stupid" and in England it's known as "those Taffies would never survive without our subsidies".

In previous articles we looked at how Labour MPs in Wales betrayed us by voting against devolving our natural resources and we also looked at The Crown Estate holdings in Wales that Plaid Cymru want devolved to Wales. There are those that want Wales to be given the opportunity to be able to develop its own economy, narrow the funding gap and therefore not be "such a burden" on other parts of the UK. Then there are those whose own interests are in serving the South East of England. Keeping them wealthy and keeping the other areas weak.

Here's the big reveal, water is already devolved to Wales but we are not able to benefit financially from the sale of water to people in Wales, let alone England due not having any tax raising powers. Not that this would matter because of something called...

"The Government of Wales Act 2006".*

Nestled in the miscellaneous section of this act is a clause relating to water. It states...

Intervention in case of functions relating to water etc

(1) This section applies where it appears to the Secretary of State that the exercise of a relevant function (or the failure to exercise a relevant function) in any particular case might have a serious adverse impact on—

(a) water resources in England,

(b) water supply in England, or

(c) the quality of water in England.
So we finally have our answer. Providing we let England take as much water as they require, both now and in the future the water is ours. Should we do anything to affect the supply then they retake control via the Secretary of State for Wales.

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And there is not a single thing we can do about it unless we can get out of the ridiculous habit of voting for political parties that continue to put the needs of England over our own.

And there we have it, a whole article about the colonial greed of England destroying Welsh communities and plundering Welsh water without a single mention of
Tryweryn. D'oh!

*When originally published I neglected to mention the fact that Peter Hain was secretary of state for Wales in 2006, Labour were the party in charge of the UK parliament and Welsh Senedd. So despite the fact that I have 'shopped a picture of our current secretary of state into an old game with intentionally bad grammar, it's all part of Labours plan to weaken Wales from within.

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  1. An excellent summary, Stuart!

  2. London has enough water: http://upclosemaspersonal.blogspot.com/2011/08/detroit-on-thames.html

    1. OK let's assume that you are 100% correct and that London does indeed have enough water.

      1. Why has London spent £250 million on a desalinisation plant?
      2. Why does BoJo want to build canals from Wales to England?
      3. Why is the SE in drought in February when Oct-Jan are on average (over 30 years) the wettest months according to the met office
      4. Why is Severn Trent considering plans to transport 30 ML to Anglian Water each day?

      After all, as you say, London has enough water.

      I wonder if it's not a case of...
      "Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink" (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

      If they are in drought now then what will happen in the summer?

      I want you to know that no one is seriously saying don't let them have our water. All we want is for the amount of water that is currently taken for free to be paid for. So that money can go towards reducing the Welsh funding gap.

  3. When I first went to London to work, I commented that the water tasted odd, even soapy. It was pointed out to me that every glass of water I consumed had, on average, been through Lord Hailsham at least 7 times. How London supplies its needs now that Lord Hailsham is no more, god only knows.

    The water table in London certainly is rising, (It is threatening the stability of some of the high buildings like Canary Wharf) but it is brackish water, not fresh water, and de-salination plants are very energy intensive, and therefore the resulting water is very, very expensive.

    Strange how we are told that Water has no intrinsic value, but once it crosses our border (for nothing), the English water companies trade it amongst themselves for profit. Colonial disgrace!

  4. Its common knowledge that in the not so distant future water will be more valuable than oil, experts predict that wars will be fought over it like wars are fought over oil today. You would think the WAG would be launching a plan to protect our precious commodity for the future instead of giving it away for free?

  5. Cllr. Tony Wyn-Jones25 March 2012 at 19:11


  6. Water has suddenly become a live and pressing issue, first with BoJo casting his beady eye over our resources, and more recently, with Severn Trent agreeing to supply Anglian Water with 30 million litres a day. They say it is at cost, but there is nothing to stop them making a profit if they so wish - and they will! The water they say comes from artesian wells under birmingham, so is not Welsh water, but if they didn't have a plentiful supply of our free water, how could they spare all that to sell on?

    John Osmond has a good article on Click on Wales on this subject

    1. Siônnyn, I didn't care for the article to be fair. Although Welsh Agenda has written a new article with a different take on Welsh water. It's really good.


  7. We send them water, half of which is wasted in old pipes and they send us money, half if which is wasted by the Welsh Assembly. Sounds like a deal. We switch off our water, they switch off the money - would we be better off? No.

    1. Anon, you are clearly of the foolishly misguided belief that Wales is subsidised by English tax payers. You couldn't be more wrong. England has never subsidised us and never will subsidise us. It's a myth dreampt up by unionists to convince people such as yourself that Wales is better off being exploited.

      Here, have a look at the article I wrote that busts this myth.

  8. i live in a council flat in newport, i have a shower, and my heating is provided by the council, i had a bill off these thieving bastards the other week for £555.60 for 13 months, i asked them why, they said "its based on the ratable value of the property" bullshit !
    i asked for a meter to be fitted and was told "there's a 3 month waiting list" and to continue paying it anyway, i refused !
    i saw my residents association and was told "they cant fit meters here because of the communal heating system," i was advised to speak to the housing manager in charge of my block (there are 84 flats in this block)i have since been informed that i need only pay £20 per quarter !
    welsh water contacted me by phone then and demanded i pay them £10 per week out of my £45 per week benefit, i refused and when i told them about the bill and advice given the prick on the phone offered to cut the bill in half to £280 so all id have to pay is £5 per week,he pointed out that the new figure was based on my neighbours bill (he is 85 !)
    i told him to fuck off and id see him in court !

    who the fuck are these liars to pick figures out of fresh air and bill us !

    1. I've had numerous problems with "Welsh water". I have a shared pipe with my neighbour. They sent a warning letter to me because the pipe was leaking, threatening me with court and a hefty fine (thousands). I explained the pipe was not on my property and that the house was empty so they sent the same letter to my neighbour on the wrong side. They are elderly and were furious. I explained again to Welsh water and they sent a letter to Swansea council. I don't live in Swansea I live in Carmarthenshire. Back and forth it went on until they just came out and repaired it themselves for free. All that took about three months. That's a lot of water!