Water Waste of Money

A few years ago, I bought a water butt for the back garden. The idea is that I get to keep all of the rain that falls on the back half of my house roof and then use it instead of the liquid gold I’m currently getting charged for by Southern Water.

At the time I realised it would take ages to repay the cost of it, by the time I had bought the barrel, the stand, the piping and the tap; it would be something like 50 barrel-fulls before it would break-even. I was doing my bit for the environment, though; plus it’s something useful to have (at the time there wasn’t an outside tap).

The other night it was raining and I was just locking up downstairs before going to bed. Then I heard the water trickling from the supply pipe into the water butt. It sounded quite loud and that made me realise something: if it’s loud, then the water must be falling a long way from the supply (at the top of the barrel) into the current level. That can’t be right because it’s rained for the past three days and it was full before that.

So at 1am I was outside in the rain with my torch and discovered that there’s now about 3 inches in the bottom of the barrel. Hunting around I found there appears to be a split in the bottom of the water butt and there’s a steady stream trickling out of it. I think the weight of the water must have something to do with the size of the split, because the last time I looked, it wasn’t losing any more.

So that’s a waste of money and the savings have literally gone down the drain.

Water Bill

Why the hell are they called standing charges? After receiving my water bill today, I needed to sit down after seeing all the “pay us an arbitrary amount for just living there” expenses applied to my account.

My water bill has been a bit of a sore point for a while now, after my parents complained about having to pay half my monthly outgoings on the old so-called-expensive “water rates” scheme. Our bill is steep compared to theirs because of a combination of several factors:

  1. The charge per cubic metre of clean water is quite high – up at 92.30p per unit.
  2. As well as being charged for clean water, we’re also charged for disposing of the dirty water. Southern Water assume that 92.5% of the clean water you get into the house will be sent back to the drain system. This charge per volume is very high – 169.80p per cubic metre.
  3. Then there’s the “standing charges” – over the past 6 months we’ve had the following standing charges applied to our account: “Water supply” (£13.23), “Wastewater drainage” (£9.12), “Surface water drainage” (£11.03), and “Highway drainage” (£3.51). Adding on all these standing charges means £73.58 a year – an extra £6.13 on the bill every month.
  4. When we first moved into the house, we were underpaying by quite a bit. Because water bills are only issued every 6 months, we had built up quite a large debit on the account before anyone noticed and our payments were adjusted to suit.

Combining the water supply and wastewater drainage charges together effectively means that for every cubic metre of water we use, we are charged an eye-watering (pardon the pun) 249.365p per cubic metre. That’s right: 1000 litres of water costs £2.50. Put it this way: every time I wish to “spend a penny” at home (about a 10 litre flush), it actually costs over twice that.

Thankfully, this blog entry has a happy ending. We’ve now caught up on our underpayments and from next month will be paying £15 per month less.

About time too.

Shower Mistakes

We’ve been away in the Lakes this weekend, staying at a guest house before the Christening of of friend’s daughter. We were staying in the highly-recommended Ravenstone Hotel, which was very nice. Homely enough to retain the charm of a small B&B; yet modern, clean, and with sufficient facilities to let you think you’re staying in a chain hotel. The staff were also exceptionally kind towards Lucy, helping us wherever they could – providing her with real food cooked for a baby, not just some processed jar stuff.

Sunday morning came all-too-quickly after a comfortable night’s sleep. Despite the gale-force winds rattling everything outside, it was peaceful and the breakfast was very good. Unfortunately I made a real beginner’s mistake that morning. When you’re in a hotel and having a shower, if you get the temperature to be tolerable, you should then leave things alone. Tweaking it to be slightly hotter or cooler can only result in you diving through the shower curtain head-first into the door.

Being a bit stunned about getting out of bed at 6am, I made the critical error: finding the shower it to be slightly too cool for my liking, turned the dial anti-clockwise by a smidge and then needed 999 assistance with third degree burns.

I don’t know what it is about hotel showers that make them so different to domestic ones. At home, we have an old but functional mixer shower, which has an outer ring for on/off, with an inner dial for hot / cold. Going from unpleasantly cold to unpleasantly hot takes a movement of about an inch and a half. Pretty much everywhere I seem to go stay, though, turning the inner dial by 1mm takes you from having frozen peas to boil-in-the-bag meatballs, if you catch my drift.

Even staying with my in-laws is a bit odd though. Their shower is exactly the same design as ours, yet the outer on / off ring takes about 3 full turns to shut the water off. That doesn’t sound a lot, but when you can only turn the dial 1/3 turn at a time, it feels like you’re hand-pumping the shower getting it to switch on. The most confusing part about it is that the hot / cold arrows are the wrong way round.

Think about that for a minute. You’re in their shower for the first time and the water starts to go a bit hot, because someone is running the cold tap. No problem: just turn the dial down a bit. Ow! Turn the dial down a bit more. NO! OW!!! At this point, the person running the water downstairs turns their tap off and you’re now left with the shower running slightly hotter than it was before. This time, you now revert back to the principles discussed earlier: if it’s tolerable, then leave things alone.

It took me many, many showers at my in-laws before I actually worked out the dial was the wrong way round.