Letters: New housing must be built to catch rainwater to top up mains supplies

·9-min read
A man sunbathes on the parched grass of Greenwich Park, with the City in the background - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
A man sunbathes on the parched grass of Greenwich Park, with the City in the background - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

SIR – Rather than rely solely upon water companies, it should be mandatory for all new buildings to have storage and recycling facilities built in, to catch and retain rainfall on their roofs. This could be used for washing and domestic purposes, then reused as “grey water” to flush lavatories, wash cars and water gardens. Mains water would be reserved for drinking, cooking and back-up.

Buildings such as warehouses , factories and churches, which collected more that they used, could sell the excess on to water companies or local authorities.

John Seager Green
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – Reservoirs (Letters, August 13), being open bodies of water, are prone to evaporation in conditions such as we are now experiencing. Covered reservoirs and aquifers are a much better bet.

Many years ago Thames Water sank boreholes down into the subsoil to tap into the aquifers along the Lambourn Valley and other parts of the Berkshire Downs. These were all fitted with radio-operated pumps so that, in times of water shortage, they could pump water into the rivers for extraction further down stream. This operation was designed to avoid the necessity to flood large areas of countryside to construct a reservoir.

I can remember these borehole pumps being operated only once until now, when local people out walking have reported hearing them in action.

Roy Bailey
Great Shefford, Berkshire

SIR – After the last serious drought in 1976, there was talk of creating a network of water mains throughout the country to make use of surplus water in the north.

One can’t help but wonder if that would not have been a better use of taxpayers’ cash than the vastly expensive and destructive HS2 project.

John Birkbeck
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

SIR – Yesterday, returning from a few days away, I was struck by the lush green weeds that had erupted from every crack and crevice in my paths and patio, while everything in the planted areas looked brown and dull.

Keith Sumner
Castle Donington, Derby

SIR – Should the Government appoint a Minister for Drought? It rained five days after Denis Howell was appointed in 1976.

James Sutherland
Port Glasgow, Renfrewshire

SIR – With reservoirs, rivers and other waterways dry or at an all time low, would this not be an ideal time to remove the detritus thrown into them such as supermarket trolleys?

C W Twiston Davies
St Lawrence, Jersey

SIR – At least the water shortage has yet to be called “Watergate”.

Roy Ramm
Great Dunmow, Essex

No jam for tea

SIR – Out shopping recently, I succumbed to a guilty pleasure and purchased a pack of five jam doughnuts.

As I cut into the first, I realised it did not contain any jam. At coffee time on day two , the second one was similarly sans jam – likely the others too.

As a country we are going through the most difficult of times with catastrophic increases in energy bills, the NHS under the severest pressure, a war in Europe, the hottest weather for 50 years plunging the country into drought, and rail strikes all conspiring to make life difficult and depressing.

However, when J Sainsbury is selling jam doughnuts without jam, you realise Britain is in real trouble.

Michael Fabb
Chobham, Surrey

Rushdie on free speech

SIR – Most people will think the attempted murder of Sir Salman Rushdie to be the most abhorrent attack on free speech (Letters, August 14). But while it is an offence in the UK to deliberately incite racial hatred, universities and other institutions have for some time been intolerant of views that conflict with their own, and many writers and performers have been “cancelled” as a result.

I hope this horrific attack will focus our attention on the importance of a greater tolerance of free speech.

Martin Henry
Good Easter, Essex

Cereal episodes

SIR – Charles Smith (Letters, August 10) and Nigel Sedgwick (Letters, August 12) agree that a cube is the most economical shape for a cereal box.

But there is the literary aspect on this matter, too. A square area provides limited breakfast reading.

James Gibson
Quorn, Leicestershire

SIR – I believe the most efficient shape to volume ratio is that of a sphere. I cannot foresee any issues with spherical cereal boxes.

Alisdair Keats-Rawling
Woodford, Cheshire

The Lynch mob

SIR – Mick Lynch believes that “we should stop being so belligerent towards countries” (report, August 12). Perhaps he could start by setting an example here in the UK.

Steve Black
Keyworth, Nottinghamshire

Tory call to arms

SIR – David Frost’s otherwise excellent analysis (Comment, August 12) stops short at a point where Margaret Thatcher would certainly have gone on: the strategic context. There is a war in Europe.

The failures in resilience provision he identifies have been exploited by Russia. Vladimir Putin has a menu of ways in which he can make the situation much worse – further reducing gas supplies; restarting the war in the smouldering Balkans through Serb proxies; terrorist attacks in the Baltic states (again through proxies); mounting a more sustained cyber-attack on our vital services or even fielding one of his 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

Each of these options would make our economic ills considerably worse. At a time when the West is still militarily stronger than Russia, none of them need happen. With Mr Putin determined and angry, however, strong clear actions underpinned by firm, measured language are needed – not just now but for the foreseeable future to prevent escalation to something much worse.

Such actions – including more investment in our depleted Armed Forces – we will get from Liz Truss, whom Lord Frost rightly commends. They are even more important than the economic measures he calls for.

Sir Julian Brazier
Canterbury, Kent

Smooth operations

SIR – Sir Jim Mackey (Letters, August 12) may not be medically qualified, but he does know that unprecedented numbers of patients are waiting in pain for operations.

Regular follow-up of all patients after major joint replacement was necessary in the 1980s when the reliability of these procedures was uncertain. Today, total hip replacement is one of the most cost-effective interventions for improving quality of life. Distracting a surgeon from assessing new patients and operating impairs the delivery of this benefit.

Understanding outcomes is essential but the ethical stance is for this to be done efficiently, freeing the surgeon to best-serve patients.

Andrew Roberts FRCS
Oswestry, Shropshire

SIR – So the NHS is to provide another 7,000 beds. Who is going to staff them? The increasing numbers of well paid diversity and inclusion managers?

Judith Goulden
London NW3

Energy failure

SIR – We have an expanding population, yet the last reservoir built in this country was in 1991. We are an island, yet the one desalination plant has been closed down. Why?

We are short of gas, so why are we not fracking, and why are North Sea operations not expanding?

In South Africa during the oil embargo they produced 1.5 million barrels of synthetic fuel from 800 million tons of coal. We have vast coal reserves. What is going on?

Dr Peter D Moug
Worthing, West Sussex

Irritating labels

SIR – Could the various manufacturers of clothing please give some thought to the nature and location of their multiple labels?

In the current weather they seem to be more in evidence than ever, and have become brittle, scratchy and decidedly irritating.

Mike Powell
Quorn, Leicestershire

There are worse ways to live than in vino veritas

Sober realities: a Photocrome dating from about 1899 of Algerian ladies drinking coffee - Bridgeman Images
Sober realities: a Photocrome dating from about 1899 of Algerian ladies drinking coffee - Bridgeman Images

SIR – As one of the many middle-class drinkers who have given up pretty much every other vice over the years, I found my increasingly assailed virtue wounded once again on reading your recent article on the lies we tell ourselves about drinking. (August 8). How much better off, I wondered, would British culture, media and society be without alcohol?

It seems an impossible question, so perhaps the best answer lay in those societies where no one drinks at all. Surely there we would find a long-living, contented and honest people.

Unfortunately, my research has not found a single dry country where life expectancy exceeds our own. Moreover, many have been ravaged by conflict, have suffered under the rule of unscrupulous dictators and have no concept of free speech.

Glass in hand, I know where I would rather be. Cheers.

Sacha Tomes
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

The police cannot fill the role of social services

SIR – I served a full career as a police officer and lately I lecture and research policing at university. The “findings” of Andy Cook (Comment, August 11)and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate will surprise few involved with the service.

The cuts in staff imposed by Theresa May have had a catastrophic effect, while her diktat that “the job of the police is to cut crime, nothing more, nothing less” failed to recognise that the police service has had to fill shortfalls in public service areas such as mental health and social welfare.

Until policing is given some clear operational parameters, victims of crime will receive a mediocre service. Officers simply cannot be in two places at once, such as at the scene of a crime or sitting with a mental health detainee until qualified practitioners take over.

A Royal commissioned review is long overdue.

Derek Flint
Lythan-St-Annes, Lancashire

SIR – Several weeks ago, we suffered the theft of our builder’s mechanical digger, during which our car was damaged.

The police gave me a crime incident number, then explained that, as I was the victim of a crime, I would be entitled access to a counselling service. The following morning, I received an email from them explaining that, as there was little likelihood of the thieves being apprehended, the case was being discontinued. Again, I was offered counselling. Thanks to a tracking device, the digger was recovered within 24 hours.

Following the theft, I had lengthy correspondences with insurers, yet the police expressed no interest in the pictures or information I provided. It was an exasperating and frustrating experience. Thankfully, I do of course have access to counselling.

John Woodcock
Farnham, Surrey

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