Please don't take a bath, water shortage residents told

MP calls for water supply to be brought back into public hands

Thursday, 8th March 2018 — By Tom Foot


Bottled water is handed out at a car park on Hampstead Heath

THAMES Water pleaded with Hampstead residents not to take baths or use dishwashers this week as the private company struggled to cope with “multiple bursts” of supply pipes.

The company asked for “support and understanding” after the entire Hampstead reservoir, near Whitestone Pond, ran dry. The firm began handing out bottled water from the back of a lorry at East Heath car park on Monday as tap water supplies ran down over the weekend.

The chaos led to calls for the water supply to be brought back into public hands. Problems were caused by ruptured pipes in Downshire Hill, Hampstead; Brocas Close, Belsize Park; West End Lane and Langtry Close, in West Hampstead; and Finchley Road.

Hampstead business campaigner Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who lives in Redington Road, said her water supply was switched off on Saturday evening. “While Thames Water setting up the water station was helpful, it did not cater for people who did not have cars. Five, six packs of six bottles per pack are super heavy and one needs a vehicle of some kind to assist,” she added. “I think that, given the pressure of calls and the size of the disruption, Thames Water did well to get water back up and running in the time they did. Their staff must have been working round the clock to get this done.”

But Hampstead and Kilburn Labour MP Tulip Siddiq said: “Our water industry is dysfunctional and defined by regional monopolies operating with little regard for working households.”

She added: “The latest episode with Thames Water only underlines the problems at hand, and I look forward to the day that they are back in public ownership.”

In January, Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the company was “a great example of the failure of water privatisation specifically, and privatisation generally”

He added: “It has been disastrous for 14 million customers, and for future generations of citizens who will continue to foot the bill for underinvestment from a company that has other priorities.”

Thames Water was last year fined £8.5m for water leaking at a rate that regulator Ofwat called “unacceptable”. Chief executive Steve Robertson said on Tuesday: “We are pleased to have made good progress with restoring supplies today, but very sorry that some of our customers are still without water or have low pressure, in some cases after several days.”

He added: “We are in no doubt about how distressing and inconvenient this is for everyone affected. We have been working flat out around the clock to get things back to normal. We would also ask customers to be especially vigilant for any leaks in their neighbourhood, particularly in empty houses or commercial premises. Large volumes of water are still being lost through burst pipes – such as garden taps – and finding them and shutting them all off is a priority.”

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