BBC OnePanorama


Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Friday, 4 August 2006 10:59 UK

Whose water is it anyway?

Picture of a water can and hosepipe

Using your hundreds of emails Panorama challenges the water companies about leakages at a time when hosepipe bans have been introduced in some parts of England.

And we find out why some consumers are refusing to pay their water bills.

We ask if the privatisation of the water industry has worked or if it should be renationalised.

Out of all the emails we received we chose to feature the people who wrote these messages to Panorama and you can hear them tell their own stories in the film.

Head teacher Julian Thomas with the leak at his school
Julian Thomas is the head teacher of Ley Park Primary in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. He contacted Panorama when he saw our appeal for leak watch emails because of leaking water which became a problem for his pupils.

Julian's email to Panorama
"We first got our leak on the 29th May. Thames Water originally gave us a date of six weeks to quote it's repair for the 17th July. The leak started as an overflowing manhole cover, and has developed into a 6" fountain... it has now developed into a gush... we pulled into the car park this morning and it's half full of water, taking out 7 or 8 spaces.

"We've been in the paper for two weeks running and even though we've emailed again and again, Thames Water (though they've sent lots of people to look at it) still haven't changed their decision to quote or repair sooner.

"The plumber we called to fix this instead of waiting for Thames Water coming out, told us he couldn't as he wasn't authorised to turn off the mains out in the road. Thames Water however, wouldn't authorise him or come out to help him.

"We're not happy; but the children are enjoying it during the heatwave!

"We'll be sending you photos shortly."

Andrew's Thames Waster website
Andrew contacted Panorama after deciding to take matters into his own hands.

Andrew's email
I became so tired of the unfixed leaks in my area (now mainly fixed but with occasional water pools seeping out of the ground) that I have taken action. I have now reduced the payments made to Thames Water by the amount of the leaks in terms of a percentage. By only paying for what is delivered we save 25 a month! The owners for an essential public utility should never be outside the UK and by withholding full payment I hope to persuade others to do the same. If I can do this an eventual share price fall will force the owners to invest in the business.

Some of your views about Whose water is it anyway?

An elephant receiving water
In the hottest July on record animals used to warmer climates needed extra water

Ian, UKI work for a water company that was not featured on your programme last night and was astonished by the end of the programme by the tabloid approach and lack of factual information provided in the wider aspects of a water company's responsibilities.

In no way I am supporting or vidicating any failures to achieve targets or implement proper governance procedures to ensure correct and justified information and data is provided to the regulator - but simply portraying leakage levels and not equating that back to a cost to fix and what this would mean in terms of customer bills is shocking and potentially misrepresented the actual situation. Im my simplistic view OFWAT (and the UK Government) have to strike a balance between the level of investment and customer bills) and this is decided every five years by them. So if water companies achieve the targets (which the majority are) then they are doing so in the confines of the funding (customers money) that has been approved by Government.

I think overall the programme highlighted a severe lack of preparation by the reporter into the water industry, which could have been easily overcome with a little more planning and involvement of water company staff. I think OFWAT are also doing an OK to good job as well for both consumer and water company.

DC, NottinghamIn answer to a query below... Q. Why is current investment not leading continuing reductions to leakage rates? A. As sections of old leaky mains are replaced it has a net effect of raising the pressure within the system, and thus creates additional leaks elsewhere at other vulnerable points.

Paul Squirrell, LondonWhilst the quality of this programme was far to 'tabloid'I think it did start to touch on some important issues.

Part of me really hopes that standpipes return to our streets and the consumers make vocal their dissatisfaction in the strongest possible way.

It is incredible that here we are in 2006, one of the richest countries in the world, potentially unable to get water into people's homes because (for the most part due to), the mismanagement of our water assets by companies such as Thames Water.

Let's be honest, hot summer and low rainfall taken into consideration, this situation national disgrace!

David Killop, Coatbridge, LanarkshireWe are making payments to a company abroad for water. This means, in strict economic terms, that we are importing a product and such payments are,if you will excuse the pun, leakeges from our economy.

Fay, DartfordI don't think it's right that because Thames Water aren't doing enough to save water that people should begin using hosepipes again.

Water is a precious resource which needs saving even if there are no leaks.

It will take a long time before all of the antiquated pipes are replaced by longer lasting plastic ones and in the meantime we should all do our bit by conserving water wherever we can.

John Darvell, LondonI was totally shocked and dismayed at the information within the programme. I haven't until now totally appreciated what the water companies have been doing to us the consumers. A brilliant programme!

What I did think the programme lacked was constructive suggestions on what we the consumer can do to put extra pressure on making the water companies i.e. Thames Water, change their irresponsible, profit driven mentality.

James Gorman, GuildfordI would like to see the other utility companies [ Electricity , Gas and Telecommunications ] have the licence to provide water . in other countries these utilities are provided by single utility company.

I would like to have the same flexibility on water that is available on the other utilities . I appreciate that the other utilities can switch supplies and offer customers in any area , because of each of the other utilities have a National Grid and perhaps we need the same for water to give end users the freedom of choice . these are matters that OFWAT and the gov should facilitate .

David, LondonThis biggest waste here was opportunity. The BBC could easily have secured a series of in-depth interviews with Water Co executives but instead chose the lazy route of Michael Moore style campaigning. I tuned in to watch an interesting programme. Perhaps I should stop paying my license fee.

A Andrews, HertsHaving been very careful with our water ie, using washing up water to water our plants, collecting what rain we have had in our many water butts, having quick showers instead of baths etc, to find out that we have so much wasted by leaks from an obviously incompetant water company makes my blood boil.I have lost so many precious plants due to lack of water, some others may never recover.Obviously gardens take second place to our basic needs, it's just so sad that the water lost could of been used in our gardens.

Peter Young, BrixtonI have found thames water's recent adverts about how much they plan to save (pictures of the tower and battersea power station full of water)quite offensive. I thought the verb to save related to cutting usage and putting by for the future. If they propose to cut waste, why not be honest and say so.

Jill Muir, AbingdonA very interesting programme. Thames Water should be ashamed of themselves. Why am I saving water when they don't?

Beatrice Giles, UKI would like to comment about the Panorama programme on the UK water industry.

I found the approach to the water companies, in particular RWE in Germany, scandallous and worthy of tabloid approach only. You cannot appear at company head quarters and bully a CEO into giving an interview. This may be done in confronting individuals i.e. cowboy builders, plumbers etc. because there is no other way in getting hold of those individuals. The entire programme appeared ill prepared and ridiculous - asking to get some water to take back to England, what a childish approach.

I am disappointed, I always respected Panorama and its quality of investigative journalism. I hope future programmes will be more professional.

Chris Tranmer, Datchet, BerkshireThe prentational style and reporting in most recent Panorama programmes (Thames Water and VAT scam stories) seem to be directed towards an audience of moronic 13 year olds or more mature Sun readers. Whilst the subjects of the programmes are interesting and serious, the manner adopted by the reporters is childish and theatrical. Can you not revert to they more adult style for which Panormana was renowned in its hay day?

Keith Sheen, EnglandWhilst I welcomed your programme on the water companies I felt that it did not put them on the spot in any way. I would follow up the point about who owns the water. Water is not strictly a resource in the sense that other utilities are. It is not finite in the way that oil based utilities are and therefore not an environmental issue. The Boards are not supplying or providing water they are directing it to us. Assuming that there is enough water to go around in the total sense then the Boards jobs are to get it to us which they are patently not doing efficiently. We are told that there is not enough water to go around, but that is not the weather's fault it is the company's faults for not getting it to us. Would the power companies say stop buying appliances because there is not enough power? I doubt it. I believe there is enough water in this country to supply all our needs without running rivers dry or showing pictures of dry reservoirs, but it needs to be harnes! sed and channelled to us which will not be achieved at the present level of investment or the narrow minded approach to water supply.

Peter Mitchell, UKLast nights Panorama on the water industry was disappointingly superficial. Driving large tankers to Germany, shouting through megaphones are surely tabloid techniques - the BBC ought to be a bit more serious minded than this. Why not get some decent input from the BBC's excellent Economics staff.

Ian Edmunds-Tutty, Penarth S GlamorganAs water is delivered by a monopoly the companies should not be owned form abroad. Customers should have the right to buy shares in the company that delivers their water, or it should be a co-operative collectivly owned buy the customers.

Michael Ewles, Hockering, NorfolkVery disappointing programme; more akin to 'Rogue Traders' than the traditional investigative standards of Panorama. Door stepping the water companies had the predictable results and Ofwat were as defensive as ever. What did the production team expect?

E R Lawrence, LondonExcellent programme, but Hemming Clark should be fined for wasting water. We are all enraged with Thames, but as there is a water shortage it does not help the rest of us if one person is wantonly wasting water. Please can you make follow up programmes of have regular updates on local news progammes of any information/action on the water shortage.

Catherine Sims, Bury St EdmundsGood programme highlighting how profit driven water companies are. When speaking of water the presenter used fiancial terms; to use water economically, surely since water is a precious and increasingly scarce resource we should be using it efficiently (whether the water companies are or not). It is good to call water companies into account because they are too profit driven but we also need to be responsible and efficient with our water usage.

Frank Isack, North Luffenham, RutlandWhen you questioned water companies and Ofwat you did not raise the point that over the past few years the investment going into relining and renewing water mains has made no difference to leakage rates, if anything rates for some companies have risen (a point you did make). If the money going into reducing leakage rate is effective we should be seeing rates falling. Assuming that new investment is not leaking, it means that pipes which have not received investment are getting much worse. Basically, why is current investment not leading continuing reductions to leakage rates?

Ian Kemp, LondonSome questions that need answering: 1)Why is it that we cannot choose who supplies us with water as we can with all other utilities?

2)When we use a water company to supply us it could be assumed that we are entering into a contract to be supplied with water and to pay the water bills (Im sure that the water companies would quote this in any payment default)it stands to reason that in this case if a water company fails to supply sufficiant water(as in standpipes) or stops the supply then they are breaking the contract and any payments should be stopped.

Glen Westmore, GuildfordAfter watching Panorama last night I was absolutely fuming - not at the water being wasted through leaks in the south east nor at the profits being made by the water companies - but by the horrifically poor standard of journalism being portrayed. I was shocked that I was watching the BBC. The reporter seemed far more interested in creating media stunts than getting real answers from the water companies. Especially after I found a Thames Water response statement on this website - where was that reported? If a film crew was to turn up at any major company with no notice and demand an interview with a board member or CEO - they would get the same response. I thought the section with the gentleman from Ofwat was excellent however - clear and reasoned, why wasn't the rest of the programme the same? I was expecting a balance argument with the reasons for the leakages (and the drought)adequately explained and with the water companies failures made clear. What I got were statements made and not justified (the quote about The Blitz causing leaks - how?), one member of the public encouraging people not to pay their full bill (despite receiving the same level of service as the rest of us - full flowing taps) and another encouraging people to ignore the hosepipe ban - How is that helping the drought? A clear opportunity was missed to inform people on how to help conserve water - what we got was a tanker driv

Andrew, PeterboroughHand a small group of people a monopoly and then be very surprised at how they act? Give them an easy ride by having a wet OFWAT organisation with no teeth or without any real inclination to act in any forceful way. Just another typical UK scenario ,assets are gifted , big business in control, " tacit acceptance of effortless superiority " , that we will all moan about but continue to pay the bills. Water, gas, electricity, road taxes, oxygen next?

John Wooldridge, Kingswinford, West MidlandsPanorama is a serious programme addressing serious issues. To drive a water tanker to the offices of a water company and ask for some water, and to shout through a loud hailer at the offices of another company demeaned the programme, putting it on a level with documentaries produced by your lesser competitors. Please return to your high standards and forget the gimmicks.

F, SwindonI work in the water industry. It is right and proper for the media to ask questions about years of mismanagement, but now a lot is being done to put it right and it is demoralising to see these one sided media shows again anad again. I don't know why the water companies allow themselves to be slated every day when everyone is working so hard to try and provide a continuous water supply for customers. Last night's programme showed water mains that had just burst and commented on the waste of water. If a main bursts of course water is going to be wasted, even if it is dealt with as an emergency. Mains also have to be copiously flushed when they have been repaired or if they are new, it can't be helped. I agree that minor leaks could sometimes be repaired sooner, but sometimes there are reasons why they are not and this is never mentioned. Remember also that most water going down the drains will go back into the water cycle so not all the wasted gallons are lost forever. Yes, more can be done, and will be, but the current media reporting is sensationalist and does not explain things properly.

Jane Allam, BracknellI thought your programme was excellent. The facts were well presented, the issues were discussed intelligently and the your message came across loud and clear.

One thought which did not come across, however, was that our per capita consumption of water today is considerably higher than in 1976 and the expectation is that the water will always be there when you turn on the tap. There are more washing machines, dishwashers, hot tubs, private swimming pools and power showers now. Public buildings and planning regulations should have dual flush toilets as a normal standard. If the French and Swedes can do this, so can we. We should be encouraged to conserve water, even during wet years. I felt the interview with the gentleman watering his garden didn't really do him any favours and some of his message lost its impact. He was watering his plants in sunlight and the water from the hose was being blasted at the plants. I agree to a certain extent with his principle, but his garden would have looked more lush if he watered in the evening, flooding the plants gently to allow the soil to remain in contact with the roots and mulched with coco shells or bark to retain moisture. By planting his plants closer together, there would have been less soil exposed and hence less evaporation.

Sampada Wagle, LondonI thought your program was really good, i have seen a leak on the road outside my office in nw2 for the last 2 1/2 years and it has never been fixed

Adam Gill, LondonGood programme, highlighting the real problems, but no interviews with central perpertrators meant programme lost ctting edge. What about institutional shareholders of the water utilites? They would have had no problem being interviewwed and to explain why comapnies are attractive investment putting dividend yield ahead of concumer interest.

Lawrence Potter, Tunbridge WellsWhat?! You waste my money on hiring a tanker. Surely a harder hitting thing would have been to stand outside with placards informing the company running Thames Water that customers are cancelling their direct debit payments. It seems Ofwat are recommending this by the fact that they were silent on what the customer can do.This most obvious way of direct action is the clearest way of saying enough is enough. Imagine how much money can be borrowed on the strength of these fixed payments coming in every month. Hiring a tanker seems a bit crazy there is no way they could have given the water just like that.

Bob Downing, Seaford, East SussexExcellent, thank you. Perhaps you could follow up by asking politicians why foreign holding companies should be allowed to decide what to do with an essential national resource? It is *our* water, after all! Also, you part-answered the question about why de-privatisation cannot be considered (the idiot who promised a 25-year advance warning!), but that is not the whole answer. Parliament can legislate whatever it wants in this respect; so why not? Political assemblies are not obliged to consider the welfare of shareholders, or to recompense them, surely? If that's still a no-no, how about rationalising the whole supply network? For example, we pay SE Water for the water, then Southern Water for sewerage due to historical accident. So we have to deal with two monopolies! How come (nationally) there are still no less than 22 firms supplying water (or taking it away)?

Stephen J Howie, SurreyI think that the program was very good and showed the double standards that this country is in. Plus Thames water had egg on there face because it also shows how they did not want to come out and face the facts and answer the questions that the Panorama team wanted to ask on behave of the public.This water company need to be brought into check and to sort out the water problem once and for all. Not to come up with lam excuses for there blunds in management.

Tim Bradford, West YorkshireVery well presented. Living in Yorkshire I'd like to second the quality of service I have received from Yorkshire Water -- roads digged up and getting new replacement pipes is a regular occurence in the streets. It is pleasing to see a company that actually cares about improving the public infrastructure and delivers good customer service: sorry to all you Londoners getting such shoddy and appaling results from Thames Water. My house did not have an accessible stop-tap and after a single phone call the problem was fixed within a week, for free.

R L Colquhoun, EastbourneNot really very hard hitting programme on water. If you are going to stand outside and wait for comment you will never get anywhere. I could have made that program in half an hour.

K, UKI work in debt collection for a water company (not mentioned on the programme tonight). I totally agree water companies have a responsibility to ensure that leaks are kept to a minimum. I also believe that there are an increasing number of people that simply refuse to pay for the water they are receiving that is increasing bills for those that do pay. If people are unable to pay that is a very different issue, but not paying just because you are aware you cannot be cut off is a very different matter. I deal with debts of 5 to 10 years non payment on an all too regular basis, and see this as nothing but theft from the people that do pay. I know water companies are not perfect, but some of the consumers are just as culpable.

JW, EssexThank you for your program. It was so refreshing. I don't feel our leaders/politicians are interested or care about us the people of the UK. The system lets us down constantly. I am grateful for your program and the people like you who stand up for us.

Paul Searle, ReadingI found the programme to be a very thorough and comprehensive vindication that Thames Water is just a greedy company which has lost the respect of its customers. Our water rates for 2005/06 went up 23% as a so called one off payment to pay for repairs to water pipes in London. I don't even live in London. This year they have said that the charge that went up the previous year would not go back down and have put up the rates a futher 6%. This from a company making 365 million a year. I contacted OFWAT and Thames to complain but they send you loads of leaflets and still seem to do nothing about the underlying problem of leakage. OFWAT are a tiger with no teeth. Thames Water get your act together and stop ripping us off!

David Bowles, Newton AbbotI found your film both extremely interesting but profoundly disturbing. I feel that Ofwat should do much more to force the water companies to stop leaks. I am also disaappointed that you didn't mention the problems we face here inthe South West - we have the highest bills in the country and one of the smallest customer bases. More than half of our water is being used by the huge influx of tourists to the region and WE have to pay for it. If I was a business man with a holiday firm I could pass the charges on to my customers but I am a retired pensioner faced with crippling bills for water I don't use. I feel that water charges shou;ld be standardised all over the country so that we all pay the same.

Hiroo Chothia, HarrowReally pleased that Panorama decided to tackle this issue, in particular with regard to Thames Water - an excellent, and balanced programme. Clearly, there has to be a mature debate regarding profits required to invest in repairs etc, however, I believe that the water companies have consistently under invested in maintenance and repairs over a number of years and are now forced to carry these out these repairs but are not able to keep up with the demand of leaks. The poor state of the pipes in the Thames Water area have been known for years, yet this has not been a major priority for investment for the companies. I also agree that OFWAT should be firmer in their approach, given the monopoly situation. I hope Panorama will do a follow-up programme in due course.

John Shaw, WakefieldA good well directed programme. It shows that there is a malaise in the water industry. we are captive customers, and cannot purchase water from another supplier. its time that someone made them toe the line. and get their act in order. we are being held to ransom

Paul Linwood, WorthingI was disappointed at the poor quality of the journalism during this programme. What has happened to the BBC ??? The Michael Moore type stunts of turning up at the Thames and their parent companies office in Germany added nothing of value to the programme these were just cheap space fillers. Picking on members of staff as they walked into the Thames office was tantamount to bullying and intimidation. Would the BBC be happy if its staff talked directly to the media about BBC policies? No, of course not one of your press officers would do this - why should other companies be any different ! Yes, the leakage situation is not good but many of the positive aspects of the water industry were glossed over and ignored. Fixing leakage would cause massive traffic disruption in London - something else for you luvvies at the BBC to do a programme about. No wonder no one from the companies involved wanted to speak to you! Grow up BBC 1 out of 10 could do better.

Jennifer Raw, UKThank you for the very informative programme on WATER this evening. I would ask; Why do we still have to pay such high water bills for a reduced service. Why do the water companies need 25 years notice for re-nationalisation ? Did they have 25 years notice of privatisation ? I would never report a neighbour for using a hose. As a pensioner I've been growing my own veg. Not being able to use a hose has made vegetable gardening very difficult.

Robert Tayler, UKWhilst I found your programme highly informative and interesting, I feel that the use of an articulated lorry - portrayed to have been driven from the UK to Germany - for a stunt that was destined never to work, was inappropriate. Not only did it give your programme a "tabloid" edge, it also showed complete disregard for ecological issues which are surely part of the route cause of our water shortage problems. Given the BBC's efforts to promote global warning (including the online experiment which we are taking part in), I find the use of fossil fuels for this programme baffling.

Peter Montgomery, LondonA few valid points but the patronising and tabloid style was unfortunate. Given the corporate governance approach of the BBC and the licence funding, I loved the irony of the presenter acusing the regulator of being tame and the water companies of exploiting a monopoly.

John Hughes, SwindonI am not a member of the water industry or have any interest other than as a consumer. However, I was astonished at this programme. Was it made by somebody more used to working at the New of the World. Q. What happens to all the water from leaks? does it go back into the sewers and therefore back into our water supply ? Does it seep back into the water table and eventually back into our water supply? Thames Water say they are spending 0.5m per day to repair leaks. If they wanted to spend 1.0m per day where would they get the engineers to carry out the work?

As for your truck to German HQ that was the worst stunt of the showTrevor Baldwin, BournemouthI thought that the program was one sided and poorly presented. The program seemed to deliberately take the line of sensationalistic journalism rather than exploring facts. The reporter travelled to Germany (where they speak German oddly enough), made no appointment, and barged straight into the reception area of a busy industrial group offices complex bleating in a sensationalistic style about wanting to speak to someone on the board about leaks etc. etc. He may well have got an interview if he approached the company properly and perhaps taken the time to speak to them in their native tongue. The valid argument that Thames water gave about the infrastructure breaking down at a bigger rate than they are able to repair was given around 30 seconds of the programs time. I do not work for a water company, nor do I necessarily agree with their methods. I am, however, a TV licence fee paying customer that would once have naturally expected the BBC to produce balanced programs with facts.

M Lewis, LondonMay I contradict you? The water companies do not need our confidence,for all intents and purposes (unlike other utilities) they are monopolies in a given area,and they know it.The current and possibly future situation is due to a large extent to the fact that the companies know we cannot switch providers.Without any competition they can leave leaks unattended for weeks (round the corner from me) or for decades like the leak on the approach road to Brent Cross Shopping Centre. There must be others.

Bee Huntley, West Molesey An humourous, informative and sometimes shocking look at our water problems, also displaying extraordinary behaviour on the part of Thames and Severn Trent. Who do the press offices think they are responsible to? Obviously not their customers... What a pity, however, that Thames was not confronted with the flooding in Hammersmith last week! I have been emptying my used bathwater on to my garden for most of the summer - time to stop that practice from Andy Davies' evidence tonight.

Martin Finch, CroydonWe are surrounded by water and the ice caps are melting.Why was'nt the question raised regarding "Desalination Plants".This would solve the problem in one go.Its scandalous that the Mayor of London is refusing permission for Thames Water to build one.This must be the future. You can only go so far in mending pipes at a quick rate.The major leaks are the easy ones to fix.As the leaks get less so it becomes more expensive and difficult to cure.There comes a point when you have to find another solution such as desalination .Then the leaks become a gradual rolling programme of repairs which can be carried out over a number of years.

John Page, Brookmans Park, HertsA shallow and gimmicky programme made by a journalist who is mighty pleased with himself. The German trip was pointless and insulting and a waste of licence payers' money - and of programme time. There was no attempt to relate profits to turnover (surely a critical number) and the bad debts issue was merely glanced at, but you devoted film and time to a Yorkshire water leakage problem all of 11 years old. Panorama is supposed to be a home for quality documentaries. This one would have been quite at home in the Trevor MacDonald slot. There are serious issues but you hardly got to grips with them.

N, Harrowbarrow, CornwallThe programme missed one very important aspect of the water industry, to us in the South West anyway. Thousands of holidaymakers from all over the country are at present enjoying the cleanest sea water ever. But who paid for the clean up? We, the customers of South West Water did, and still do, with the highest water bills in the country because of our length of coastline. Is this fair on us? We think not, particularly as we have some of the lowest incomes in the country and the highest numbers of pensioners. I don't blame the company, but the Government for failing to recognise this is a national problem and not one that should be shouldered by the people of Devon and Cornwall.

Eric Dickens, Netherlands (expat Brit)It is pretty obvious, whatever one's views on the privatisation of shops, hospitals and factories, that the privatisation of public utilities is dangerous. Firstly, the profit & greed factor, which can lead to neglect and cover-ups. Secondly, the fact that utilities can be controlled by business interests abroad, which have no real interest in maintaining standards in Britain as such. It is becoming absurd that water in some parts of Britain is controlled by shadowy companies under foreign ownership, while the general public is subjected to a propaganda campaign to save water. Leaks of the information kind, as Panorama highlighted, are much more healthy for Britain than the billions of gallons literally down the drain.

One last crucial thing: stop doing a Little Britain. If Thames Water is, in effect, German owned, Britain must learn in depth how the Germans, Dutch, Belgians, French, Scandinavians manage their water supply. Stop the ostrich tactics.

Ian Pavey, Thames Ditton, SurreyWater is everybodies God's given right, without it we die. NOBODY should be allowed to make a profit from it. The 25 year notice of renationalization should be scrapped immediately due to Global Warming and Shareholders greed. No more homes should be squashed into the South East of England this is just making the problem worse. How can you build new homes when you can't supply the existing ones.

A, FarnhamThank you for an excellent programme. The most shocking thing to me was the complacency exhibited by the regulator. Why can't they, or WON'T they, impose much higher fines on these companies? And why is it all right for consumers - with no choice of supplier - to foot all the bills for improving supply when the shareholders are creaming such massive profits? Finally, with all the building going on in the South East, when will the Government wake up to the fact that all these homes are putting an unrealistic demand on our water supply?

David Bennington, UKI have just watchted the Panorama programme about the water industry. My complaint is that the programme was too 'kid glove' and not hardhitting enough about the water industry. Punches were pulled and there waa no in depth reporting. Obviously in today's climate when the BBC are aiming at mainly teenage viewers serious programmes cannot be expected. However, I also get the feeling that the top management at the BBC are frightened of offending their colleagues in the water industry. Could we have a proper documentary on the Water Industry that shows it in a less favourable light.

Mike Daniels, West Mersea, EssexI was disappointed that the programme did not mention the crazy situation whereby the water companies are obliged by law to provide a supply to all the customers in their region, but there is no planning law which compels developers to consult first with the water company before building hundreds of new homes!

Philip Brant, Loughborough, EnglandI agree with the comment from the STW ex-member of staff that the Regulator OFWAT does not know what is going on. OFWAT appears to be too much at arms length from the private Water Companies. Why wasn't more emphasis put on this in the film? Your interviewer appeared to accept OFWATs response far too easily. As the REGULATOR of these companies, OFWAT should be just as accountable as the Water Companies for the water leakage problems & accepting false information to justify these higher charges. I thought OFWAT set the rates Water Companies could charge.

Amanda Dean, LewesThis programme raises more questions than it answers. One of the waterboards most heavily criticised was Thames Water owned by a company in Essen. There can be no excuse for the level of negligence that this company has allowed whilst profiting from its position as a monopoly, but it was the government who privatised the water industry and probably because it didn't want to do its own dirty work. The infrastructure of the water systems in this country has been neglected by successive governments and they have simply passed the buck plus sweetners onto the companies that have taken over the administration of these unwieldy and decrepit organisations.

Has Germany's water industry been privatised? If, as your programme stated they can achieve as little as a seven per cent rate of leakage through their system, how have they done this? I am far more interested in how success can be achieved than failure, we aspire to the former state but live in the latter. Surely water is a necessary national resource and not a commodity? How many other european countries have sold off their water industry to private companies?

Finally, isen't the privatisation of national services an abrogation of responsibility by the government for providing those services? Surely when the status of a citizen in this country changes from an individual served by an institution as part of a public service which we all pay for, to a customer, then we should have greater and more equitable access to the law to remedy our complaints? The impression that I have from your programme is that we are in the fabulous situation of being subject to the whims of various large monopolies but with no direct recourse through either our MP or the law without crippling expense, is this true?

Delphine Gray-Fisk, Farnham Common, BucksNot a bad programme - but why no mention whatsoever of all the reservoirs which have been concreted over for building new houses which, in turn, add to the demand? Short term profit for the shareholders but no common sense or service to the hard pressed customer. When challenged about their actions on the past companies have claimed that the reservoirs 'were beyond their useful life'. Oh, yes! What denotes 'useful'? If they're capable of storing water they should remain in commission UNTIL replacements are completed.

David Boxall, UKIt should be appreciated that a percentage of the money spent on 'investment to improve services' is added onto future price rises. This means that the actual effects of increased water charges are magnified year on year.Your investigators should look more deeply as to how the price increases are calculated.

Peter, UKA balanced view would be good, too much like an alternative comedian ranting. Too much interpretation, too little facts, TV could really benefit from well thought through stuff like failed, sorry.

Terrance Smith, LondonCan I ask why you felt the need to waste my television licence money taking an articulated tanker to Germany to ask a question you could have done on the phone, knowing full well they'd say no? In fact, I highly doubt they even had the facilites at the site you went to, to fill up your tanker. So now, I have a water company wasting water, and my money, and I also have the BBC wasting my license fee in sending artics to Germany. Two wrongs don't make a right.

David Richards, GloucesterThe program just goes to show that privatisation only benefited people with plenty of money and did nothing to benefit the water consumer who is left with higher bills, water shortages and having to reduce consumption. It is long overdue to return all the profits to the consumer in the form of a more secure publicly owned system.

Steve Fincham, GlamorganExcellent to see somone is kicking the private companies into submission that they just cant keep taking funds from the genral public without having a voice like panorama i think these fat companies (water) WOULD take further liberties, excellent report good to show the genral public that foriegn firms also owns a lot more than we know.

Gary Thomas, Doncaster Whilst I'm glad of the programme for taking these greedy utility companys to task (and frankly it was perverse of Thatcher to privatise such public utilities), however.... I feel that turning up at companies HQs with cameras ready and shouting statements over a loud haler?

What sort of TV is this from the BBC...! These were simply publicity stunts, with no chance whatsover of success. It was just stupid journalistic showboating that completely undermines the reputation of Panarama.! I felt I was watching some showbiz show on Channel 4 instead of a serious subject on BBC.

I can plenty of this sort of TV from lots of places. What I expect of the beeb is Chief Executives of these Utilities on camera explaining themselves.. the way only the BBC can get them..

Turning up at the German HQ of one of the companies with an empty 38tonne tanker and asking for it filled..????? what on earth is that contributing to the topic, other than simple show-boating.

So.. nice try, but it fell well short of what I expect for my licence fee. I can this sort of programming for free elsewhere thanks. Hardly a good example of good use of your "UNIQUE FUNDING". Please refund me an hours worth..!

Nick Fraser, LondonI was shocked by the low quality of this programme. I found the analysis unsatisfying and simplistic and the cheap stunts in the programme irritating. What has happened to Panorama? The programme is becoming more and more like 'The Mark Thomas Comedy Product', minus the laughs.

Isobel Lane, LondonI know that Thames Water has a problem with the Victorian system but WHY on earth didn't they carry out a replacement programme YEARS ago before there was quite so much traffic? Who matters to them more, customers or shareholders. They need BOTH and it is NOT right that customers are treated as sitting targets.

Samantha Ross, NewburyI am a thames water customer (albeit a new one) I am watching the panorama programme as I type this and am disgusted by what I am hearing. How does Thames water get away with such wanton wastage. and more importantly - why is Ofwat not prosecuting this firm to the fullness of its powers - more improtantly does it have the power to stand up to the industry?... perhaps it should look to the financial services authority as a regulatory example.

Iain Dale, Tunbridge WellsWhat an appalling, third rate documentary. I've written about it on my blog...

Sanjay Singh, Reading, BerkshireFantastic program! Thank you ... you have opened my eyes to Thames Water. I too will be holding back payment from now on. My plants and garden has completely died because I cannot water them this season and I cannot believe that they are forcing us to conserve water when they are so wasteful. Down with Thames Water!

Keith Smith, Fleet, Hampshire, UKThank you Panorama for raising this issue. Why should a German company (that is unknown in the UK) worry about bad British PR from Thames leaks??? Ofwat - DO something!!!

S Lloyd, Bicester, Oxonthought the show was great. been saving water to save the planet.Kids going without pool this year. My dads in china and cant believe theres a hose pipe ban. Came on thames water get a life!.

Mary F. Richards, Retinne, BelgiumMy husband and I moved to Belgium from America in 1992. In 1993, with the purchase of our first television, we started hearing about the millions liters of water wasted through a Victorian system of leaking pipes throughout Britian, particularly in England. All the water company (Thames, I think) did at the time was make excuses for itself. Thirteen years later, it is still doing the same and charging customers exorbitant prices while never making any progress in replacing the pipe system. I don't think it took this long to build the Channel tunnel. Just shameful. What I don't understand is why you put up with it?

Peter, Brentwood EssexAny other commercial concern would be expected to produce an efficient product before expecting the customer to buy it. The owners of Thames water must have known the problem with the 'Victorian pipework'and should have been prepared to sort it out long ago, before requiring the customer to pay for the cost while making obscene profits.

Steve Tredwell, Sittingbourne KentUnbelivable pathetic standard of journalisam, if you really want a response from the owner of Thames then silly stunts like the one in your program will never achive the objective. This is an object lesson in how to ruin your reputation in one Red Top type act. Hopefully someone in the BBC will apologise for this very silly mistake.

Justin Finkelstein, London, EnglandWhat has happened to Panorama? It used to be the BBC's most cutting edge, hard-hitting documentary? Watching this current episode is painful: specifically, seeing a journalist go to Thames Water's parent company and ASKING FOR WATER? What ARE you doing? Why not just ARRANGE an interview, instead of just turning up? This is appaling. BBC documentaries are becoming truly, truly awful.

John Ward, Hove, East SussexFantastic programme. If it were up to me, these companies wouldn't be allowed to make a profit until they reduce their leaks enough.

James Dowson, Bath Why are the BBC wasting the licence fee taking/hiring articulated tankers to a Germany company where the 'investigating journalists' hadn't even sorted out a proper appointment & interview. Not impressed.

Nadine, Christchurch, UKWhat I don't understand, is why OFWAT and the government can't limit profits linked to targets: if you get the targets, you can keep all the profit, the more you miss targets, the more you have to widen your leak fixing programme and not reap the profits. Is this kind of common sense too obvious for Westminster?

Leon Amenko, Midsomer NortonI think its nothing short of legalised robery by the water companies, with so many leaks that continue to lose millions of gallons of water, they have the audacity to impose hose bans to the paying public, and are proposing water meters to boot. To top it all, the fat cat bosses are drawing million pound salaries. I say yes to renationalising the industry.

Panorama: Whose Water Is It Anyway? was on BBC One on August 6 2006.

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