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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 July 2005, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Plug pulled on running water art
The Running Tap by Mark McGowan, House Gallery, Camberwell
Artist Mark McGowan said he would turn off the tap on Friday
An artist who has left a tap running in a gallery for a month to highlight water wastage is to pull the plug on his exhibit.

Mark McGowan will turn off The Running Tap at the House Gallery in Camberwell, south London, on Friday after a threat of legal action from Thames Water.

It is being stopped 11 months early after using 800,000 litres of water.

Asked how he justified sending that much down the drain, he said: "Everyone else is wasting water - mine's art."

McGowan has previously made a name for himself by rolling a monkey nut across London with his nose and pulling a bus with his big toe.

'No excuse'

Thames Water recently warned of a possible hosepipe ban and revealed it was taking water from a contingency reserve for the first time in eight years.

The company told him they could disconnect the gallery's water supply, confiscate the taps or prosecute him for wasting water if he does not turn off the tap.

Mark McGowan pushing monkey nut with his nose
McGowan has previously rolled a monkey nut across London

"Calling it art is no excuse," a Thames Water spokesman said.

McGowan has pledged to close down the exhibit at 1800 BST on Friday. He said he would "just turn it off - maybe have a drink afterwards".

A US computer analyst has been told he can buy the work for 1,500 - despite the fact the artist used the gallery's own sink and taps.

McGowan's exhibit has caused anger among many Thames Water customers and gallery visitors - some of whom turned off the tap themselves.

But the artist has defended his methods, saying he had inspired the public to save more than 800,000 litres by making them aware of water shortages.

The Running Tap by Mark McGowan, House Gallery, Camberwell
The artist used the gallery's own taps and sink

"I had one e-mail from a lady who left her tap on because her cat liked drinking out of the running tap - and now she knows," he said.

"She was leaving it on for hours in the day. Hopefully I've at least got back the 800,000 if not more, so maybe I've saved water in the long run.

"The people who've been complaining, the people who've been sending e-mails and letters saying 'that's outrageous', I think they're the worst wasters. Everyone does it."

McGowan criticised Thames Water for their leaking pipes, which result in 915 million litres of water being lost a day, according to regulator Ofwat.


A Thames Water spokesman said: "We have much better things that we could be doing with our time, like fixing leaks.

"So it's sad that we've had to resort to legal action. It's a waste of our time and it's a waste of customers' money."

"But there has been a strong groundswell of opinion from customers that we need to take action on this," added the spokesman.

"We don't deliberately leak, and we're spending record amounts to try to stem it. But we do still need more customers to do their bit."

Water firms missing leak targets
14 Jul 05 |  Business

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