Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Water water everywhere: why I’m not a fan of Thames Water

Yes we are still officially in drought despite it raining almost constantly for the last month. The garden is now the wettest I have seen it for a long bog which I could never get to fill up with water is now full to the brim. The emergency water butt I put in the middle of the garden and which I filled with the hose (before the ban) has not been used, and the soil is so sodden underneath it that it may fall over. I think I have managed about 2 hours gardening in the past few weeks as my free time is mainly rainy with me looking longingly out the window wanting to get outside, or in my greenhouse (which is now immaculate with every seed I want planted).

Now I do know that Thames Water has a tough job....the Victorian water system they inherited is not the best and they have been doing a good job of digging up many central London streets to replace it, however in general they suck still saying that there is a problem and having a hosepipe ban. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of the type of high density gardening which has the sprinkler on the lawn all the time, and the gardener is not happy unless the soil is always wet. I think gardeners do have a responsibility to conserve water where we can, and it would be great if we could better use grey water and have the space and money to buy those immense £500 water buts. Personally I don’t want to spend all my summers watering, but do know how important it is to water new plants to help them get established.
In the UK water is privatised and as a consumer we have no choice as to who to buy our water from. Yes this is a wet island, but the South East is dry and groundwater is a problem but could we be a bit more connected perhaps with a national water grid? Would the resistance to this be, perchance, because it may break the large monopolies?

So my reasons why the current situation is very irritating and Thames Water is not my favourite thing:
Fix the leaks: 25% of Thames water appalling stat: locally there was a leak on Camberwell Grove which wasn’t reported for a couple of weeks, then took them at least 3 weeks to fix. Yes it wasn’t a raging torrent of the kind that washes away houses, but it was at least the equivalent of a tap turned on full gushing continuously for 3 weeks. Yes it can’t have been a priority, but in a time of drought where the onus is on the customer, who is paying (more!) for a product only to be told to use less of it I would expect the company to spend some of their profits on fixing leaks quicker and some type of A-team van to be roaming London fixing things ASAP.

Collect the runoff and excess water: as gardeners, we are well aware of the importance of using water butts and collecting the run off. Indeed my dream plan would be to have a huge water but with the runoff from this going to top up a pond which overflowed into a bog garden. Supposedly London reservoirs are now 100% full, but the problem with the drought is that groundwater is still low, which is a problem for boreholes where a lot of our water comes from. All the current excess of water is flowing from our concrete cities into rivers and storm drains, making them swell to the extent that currents are dangerous and people crossing fords in cars drown. This water is then simply running into the sea. Perhaps Thames Water should learn from gardeners as it doesn’t take a genius to see that there needs to be a change in how we manage the water systems in London and that something should be done to capture this water better.

Today the news is about how old reservoirs were sold off/aren’t being used...and there was planning permission refused for a new reservoir for London. But please politicians and water companies, sort it out! More people are living in London, water use is increasing, your current system of bore holes clearly isn’t sustainable, and something needs to change. If people can happily live in desert cities, where they have lots of water and lush green gardens then on our wet, cold island we should breeze it.

UG! Anyway rant over, time for some nice pictures of the garden in May
All is a sea of blue at the mo with a forget-me-not army

I always forget how nice/unique the green of Euphorbias is
Iris confusa...beautiful plant which I mainly grow for its jungly leaves. 3 yrs old and its bulking up nicely

Persicaria red dragon emerging from the depths, its leaves are a really stunning colour
The bog.....Astiboles, Rheum palmatum and Petasities japonica all coming from the depths to turn into monsters... note how the soil is literally saturated with the water filling the reserve!
Fatsisa and Tetrapanax new leaves,....the Fatsias tend to look good now for me, then hate the drought and sulk for the rest of the year. So Im enjoying this moment

My super need greenhouse, where all my seedlings will go I dont yet know!
Drosera binata enjoying all the rainwater I can give it
New projects: Ive moved the entrance to the greenhouse round opening up the space at the back. I plan on enlarging the seating area, reclaiming some more lawn (hurrah!) and creating a bit of a secret seating area,

My other project for the month is concreting the summerhouse base, buying and putting it up and drinking gin on the terrace....this is the driest and sunniest part of the garden so Im planning a dry garden with a large fig, Champerops and spiky things


  1. The garden's looking great Clive! Very well tended to, and your large leafed plants looks like they're enjoying all this rain we're having...

    And speaking of drought (what drought?) we drained the accumulated water in the new pond and it had double the amount of water in it from the past two weeks compared to how much was gathered all winter.

    There's too many issues with this hosepipe ban thing, certainly more than meets the eye...

  2. It's true that rainfall these days is very abundant and we are having water everywhere. But, i think the hosepipe ban should not be removed so early. We were having water scarcity problem from last two years, so rainfall of just this month can't compensate all that water loss. We all should be aware of water importance and try to save water as much as we can.

  3. Absolutely! I think we could all be more water effective whatever the drought situation, however if May is cold and wet then groundwater may be higher

    What Im advocating for is a review in how Thames Water manages its resources and provides its services... It is this current weather that merely highlights how ironic this current situation is