We might all wish for gold, diamonds, and millions of pounds in our bank accounts but without water to sustain us all is lost.

In any examination a score of 81 per cent would see you as a grade A star student. Sadly this percentage is the number of water courses in a survey of over a thousand in England that are contaminated by chemicals. South West Water is under further investigation with unacceptable levels of leakages. Water pollution in rivers, sewage spoiling beaches and leaking systems all adds up to a critical situation in water supply and hygiene. Ever increasing global warming and the limited number of reservoirs merely adds to the growing crisis.

We are informed that water companies are sorry for the current conditions and using our increased bills aim to rectify the situation. This is after shareholders and water company executives have benefited at our expense. How good of them that having been neglectful in the past that they are now expecting us to foot the bill for the clean-up. No doubt the stoic British public will mutter discontent but pay up all the same. Were the situation to be the same in France one wonders what the reaction would be? The recent riots with the proposed age rise in pension age shows that the French would be far less passive in our situation. We are too complacent or perhaps too lazy to demand action. We have no real control over water supplies. How things have changed in recent years.

South West Water is a front for an investment company of French origin and then American ownership. It has many overseas investors. What is outrageous is that the South West Water chief executive earns £460,000 per year and was granted a £100,000 bonus. This is despite the poor rating of the company on many levels. Its performance is well below what one might expect from the high bills we all pay. Surely this financial gravy train at the expense of its customers is obscene. National ownership seems necessary but highly unlikely as the cost would be excessive. We are trapped in a losing situation.

In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s I was fortunate to be teaching student teachers in Outdoor Education. Part of the course was a one-week canoe and camp down the beautiful River Wye. We started at Witney on Wye and ended at Tintern Abbey. Over the years I probably canoed over 1,000 miles on this river and got to know it very well. The River Wye was a beautiful location. The water was clear with salmon and pike in evidence. Nesting swans lined the banks and watched us carefully as we paddled downstream. At the end of hot day students would plunge into the clean river for a well-earned dip. On more than one occasion fishermen could be seen carrying their salmon catch along the riverbank. In every respect it was about as glorious a country scene as one would wish to enjoy. Today it is a polluted mess. It is so bad locals do not want to enter the river. Wildlife has clearly been affected. What was once a natural beauty spot is now an ecological disaster area. This tragedy should not have been allowed to develop. It could and should have been avoided. There can be no excuses for such ecological destruction.

We seem to wait until there are major problems before we think about solutions. In the case of the River Wye it is going to take a long term major effort to return it to its former glory.

Not enough national focus is given to the dire state of our water systems. We all need to see it rises up the political agenda. Surfers Against Sewage is a lone voice that needs more national support.

‘Water Water everywhere but not too good to drink!’