The Big Picture

Vincent Boland: Privatising water won’t wash, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying for it

England’s privatised water companies are in deep trouble, but their plight is one that every water company, private and public, will face in due course

Thames Water: The company may have to be nationalised to keep it from going bust. Picture: PA

Last autumn, as Britain stumbled from one political crisis to another, reports emerged that the country’s water utilities were dumping vast quantities of raw sewage into rivers and seas. Such was the scale that rivers were polluted, swimming areas ruined and beaches overwhelmed. It all seemed like a metaphor for the state of the nation. The newspaper headlines wrote themselves.

At the time, the evidence suggested that the water utilities in England were in trouble. ...