Picture the scene. I’m stood, this morning, tired (as always) and trying not to blink in front of some very bright studio lights, speaking into a 4k camera, about some possible ‘bad news’ outcomes of the England and Wales water privatization. (This is for our upcoming MOOC at work.)

I’m mentioning the bad publicity UK water companies received in the 1990s, with accusations of excessive ‘fat cat’ executive salary levels, and how public and media furore was tied to certain incidents for specific water companies.

One example I gave was Yorkshire Water, and the 1995 drought. Yorkshire got a right bashing at the time over this, of course. But in my video recording this morning, I was trying to make the contrasting ‘good news’ point that at least Yorkshire did manage to improve its water resources situation afterwards, in part by integrating its water supply infrastructures, among other positive developments.

During other MOOC video recordings this week, I was also putting the 1989 England and Wales water privatization into context. I recalled my childhood experiences, pre-privatization, that water supply interruptions, discolourations, and ‘boil water’ were a very regular occurrence – and that it’s easy to overlook the fact that these don’t happen so much any more in the UK.

I guess I was asking for this… but the irony then was, as I got back to my office in the afternoon today I found a message from my significant other that we had no water supply at home… My S.O. is currently breastfeeding, and needs to drink water regularly, so this is definitely ‘bad news’, sorry Yorkshire!

Fast forward a few hours, and I’m on a live chat with Yorkshire (updated 21/04/16: screenshot removed). It’s great they have this feature, as the amount of talking I have to do in my job is making me less and less keen on talking in other contexts these days. It’s also a way of getting very clear, understandable and immediate feedback. Still, Yorkshire’s response was rather vague, sadly. It mentioned a tanker would be used to try to restore our water but that there was no specific timescale for this at the time.

Kindly, after I requested it, Yorkshire may supply bottled water for my S.O. though… I’ll take a picture of that and edit it in here; if it happens! (update 21/04/16; this did actually happen, but a pallet of bottle water was dropped off too far away for us to reach at the time; no matter)

So… is this a kind of action research (or payback?!?) for someone who does water-related research and teaching? Certainly feels like it. Thick and heavy irony today.

Lastly, I also can’t quite get over the coincidence… water filming in the morning; water incident in the afternoon. Come to think of it, coincidentally I was actually reading a BBC news article about coincidences, just the other day!

But it turns out that we are pattern-seeking beings and my seeing coincidences everywhere like this is probably perfectly normal

Update (20:17, 03/03/16): No bottled water turned up. Still no water supply. Family can’t cook, wash  hands or bodies or dishes, drink, do laundry – and we have the hot water and heating off, in case our boiler objects to the lack of water supply (as we had some problems with it very recently, so I don’t want to risk it). No predicted timescale for a fix either! Very poor show, Yorkshire Water… (updated 21/04/16: screenshot removed)

Update (20:27, 03/03/16): And I’m using this ‘action research’ opportunity to check out the compensation policies here. Seems to depend on whether it’s a ‘strategic main’ or not. If it is, it can be off for 48 HOURS without compensation! Otherwise it’s 12 hours… then we get a measly £20 plus £10 for every further 12 hours… And the ‘live chat’ representative doesn’t know if this one is a ‘strategic main’ or not… But at least it seems the compensation would be AUTOMATICALLY applied to my account… <Sigh>

Update (22:27, 03/03/16): Water came back on, with very low pressure around 22:00. Chalk it up to a reminder that water underpins so many daily activities… Also just as the water came back on, a ‘flood alert’ text arrived on my phone; go figure!

Update (21/04/16): Live chat screenshots removed. Comment added that a pallet of bottled water was supplied nearby, albeit we were unable to reach it at the time. Nice that Yorkshire did that for local residents!

Duncan Thomas

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