It all started just after 7:30 this morning when we heard lots ofÂ raucous shouting outside our house and thinking there were a group of hooligans rampaging down our street we looked out to find that the hooligans in question were from Southern Water and they had come to fit water meters in our street.Â The shouting continued and then on the dot of 8am the drilling started. They were using a pneumatic drill and a cutter to cut open the area around the stop cock outside houses in order to gain access to the pipes to fit the meters.
Sarah wasn’t best pleased about this and rang Southern Water to complain. Their attitude was simply that they were sure it was perfectly legal for them to start drilling at that time. Sarah pointed out that whereas it might be legal it wasn’t very considerate especially given that it was the school holidays. The customer service person said that the complaint would be noted and passed on to the relevant place (probably a roundÂ receptacleÂ next to her desk!)
When I left for work I could see that they had cut a hole in front of a number of houses in out street – the hole was roughly the same size as the opening to each property and effectively cut off any access to the house. They had surrounded the digging area with blue fences which had signs asking pedestrians to use the other footpath. I could see this would be difficult as they were digging on both sides of the street. Anyone in a wheelchair or with a pushchair would most likely have to walk in the road or zigzag their way down the street crossing from pavement to pavement.
So then they reached our house and cut the same big hole in front of our gateway – in order to allow you to visualise this I will explain that while the hole was there the only way to get from the street to the front door would be toÂ climbÂ over the wall! Common courtesy would expect that the workmen would knock on the door, explain what they were about to do and how long it would take them, check if anyone in the house had access needs etc. However this wasn’t what happened – the workmen just walked up and started digging a hole. If anyone inside had been in a wheelchair or had mobility issues and needed to get in or out urgently they have been stuffed.
So why exactly are we having water meters fitted? Well according to the side of the vans it’s toÂ saveÂ energy, save water and to save money! The posters and the website will tell you further that the South East has been declared a “Water stressed area” and that is why the compulsory water meters are being fitted. So, I wondered, who did this declaring and it took me ages to find the answer to that question. I tried Southern Water’s site, I tried OFWAT, I looked it up on the BBC and Google’d it but to no avail. Eventually I did find an answer and the declaration came from DEFRA. I have to confess that the term water stressed bothers me in this context – it conjures up thoughts of the Sudan orÂ Ethiopia rather then the Garden of England (especially as it has rained prettyÂ consistentlyÂ for the last few weeks and it’s meant to be summer). I suspect the term is designed to cover the real problem which is one of huge population growth and under investment in the water supply. The country as a whole isn’t water stressed so rather then come up with solutions which, for example, pipe water in from areas with high rainfall the companies will install meters on the pretext ofÂ Â saving water but will no doubt in the long run lead to higher water charges for families and higher profits for the company with minimal effort on it’s part – I’m sure the shareholders will be very happy. But I digress…..
So there we are with a big hole outside the house and there are lots of people standing round it. There’s a great deal of discussion going on, people scratching their heads, havin a fag and generally doing very little. Then suddenly they’ve all gone leaving the hole and a huge cutting tool unattended outside our house. Sarah goes out and is asked by a workman up the street if our water is back on yet. She informs him that she didn’t even know if had been off and points out the cutting tool. “well they need that to dig the holes” is the curt reply. After she goes back inside she can hear the workman complaining about her to his mate so she makes the second phonecall to complain.
This time the customer services person is more understanding, yes they should have told us they were going to start work outside our house, no the cutting tool shouldn’t have been left there. They admit that there have been a number of complaints and that the comments will be brought to the attention of their contractors (Balfour Beatty).
And now for the punchline!
Due to a technical issue they have been unable to fit a water meter to our pipe and will have to return in the coming weeks to do it again!!!!!!