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Last Updated: Friday, 4 August 2006, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Whose water is it anyway: The angry consumer's story
The Thames Waster website home page
Andrew Morrell is a Thames Water customer but has become so angry about his service that he has taken matters into his own hands and started his own web site campaign.

"I started the ThamesWaster campaign and web site in response to what I feel is a lack of professional conduct on the part of Thames Water (and some of the other water comnpanies) with regard to management of our most vital natural resource.

"There has been ongoing local press coverage of the leaks in the Thames Water areas for many months now spurred on by the more recent hosepipe bans coupled with the burst pipes which seem to plague the London and Surrey areas.

"About six weeks prior to the Panorama programme being announced I heard a radio article about people who do not pay their bill and the effect that it has on the rest of the population having to subsidise their non payment.

"This sparked an idea but also left me with a dilemma. On the one hand, non payment is unfair on the remaining bill payers.

"Conversely it could be argued that if the service is poor or lacking in some way then surely there is a point to which the company should be held accountable.

"I knew that total non-payment would not be fair to Thames Water as they are still delivering the water that I need for essential household activities albeit that the garden is now looking like a cricket pitch!

"So how about a measured response where we all pay the bill but subtract an amount in direct proportion to the leaks by our water companies?

"It seemed fair and might actually encourage the water companies to sort out the problem if enough people adopted the same approach.

"I wouldn't have started the campaign if Thames Water had actually met their Ofwat targets but having missed it for the third year running I felt it time to make a stand.

"My main worry is that Thames Water are placing profits before professionalism. How can the profitability of a company go up when the leaks are not being addressed with sufficient remedial works to meet the targets to which they agreed?

"If another company were to buy Thames Water would the bills go up again? My main worry is for the long term future of water supply in the UK and in particular, the South East.

"Housing is set to increase in London and the South East which will make the current situation far worse. Unless this is brought under control, and quickly, we will see bills going up again and a new company blaming Thames Water for the situation they inherited.

"Thames Water's leaks have increased since they took over the business and only in recent years have these started to decrease although at 895 million litres per day (33% of actual delivery) it is clearly a desperate situation.

"I responded to Panoramas request at the end of an earlier programme and stated in an email that I would be withholding part of my payment for water services. They thought this was an interesting angle and one worth pursuing for a forthcoming programme.

"I was a bit shocked, I don't normally seek any sort of publicity for my opinions or concerns but this is one of the few times where I feel the consumer has been poorly treated and badly let down with regard to a vital natural resource.

"The filming took place one very warm July day and took about three hours in total. It was very interesting to get a personal insight into how the programme is made and I suspect that I had almost as many questions about the making of the programme as they did about my concerns.

"It is curious that local radio and television are taking such a keen interest in the water companies at the same time so perhaps public opinion really is starting to gather momentum.

"At the very least I hope that it will bring about some form of public debate over the crisis and perhaps more legislative changes to prevent companies from running the public services like a profit making vehicle to satisfy the shareholders."

Reply from Thames Water

"We would like to reassure Mr Morrell that tackling leakage is our top priority. In the last three years levels in his home town of Guildford have been reduced by 50%.

"The huge finance necessary for improving our network would not be possible without funds from investors. Since privatisation, we have been able to invest 8 billion in network improvements.

"For every 1 we pay to our shareholders in dividends, 4 is invested in improving the network.

"We are spending 500,000 every day on tackling leakage - or 1billion over five years. We have recently agreed with Ofwat that we will spend an additional 150 million on tackling leakage. This will not be funded by customers but met through shareholder investment.

"Our customers pay an average of 70p a day for water and wastewater services. This represents excellent value for money and our customers have the lowest combined bills in the UK."

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