This weekend was an absolute nightmare for people across Surrey, including much of Godalming and the surrounding villages, who were left with little or no water.
I had several calls with Thames Water CEO Al Cochran, who told me that the water turbidity (how clear it is) was significantly worse after Storm Ciaran caused issues at Shalford Water Treatment Works.
They therefore set up water stations at the Crown Court Car Park in Godalming, the Artington Park and Ride, and as of Monday the Sainsbury’s on Clay Lane in Guildford. Eventually the water started to be turned back on but this was already after 13,500 customers had lost supply and a further 6,500 were expected to do so. There are now I think three main areas Thames Water and Waverley Borough Council need to think about for the future.
The first is how the water stations worked. Long car queues are to some extent to be expected but Crown Court Car Park was closed on Saturday night despite it being the location of one of the water stations. Was it really necessary to close the car park at that time? Moreover the Sainsbury’s water station only opened on Monday– was it not possible to get it up and running on Sunday at the very least?
Secondly, there was of course a massive impact on people locally. I got lots of messages from pubs who lost business from having to close on a busy day. On top of that, some schools had to close or move to online learning on Monday and Tuesday which of course is a massive logistical nightmare for parents. Was there no way to ensure water deliveries to them could be better prioritised? And, perhaps most worryingly, the impact of water shortages on hospitals along with the vulnerable people reportedly really struggling to get water delivered, needs to be looked at very closely.
Finally, Thames Water do have to think about how to prepare for future storms to ensure that this does not happen again. I was in close contact with their CEO throughout the weekend and I know he was working very hard on the case, but we really need to make sure this sort of widespread cut does not happen again. So I have invited him to a public meeting to discuss what went wrong, why and how we can prevent it.