BWCA drought updates

Following our news update on the 13th of March (see below) the situation regarding hosepipe bans and window cleaning with waterfed poles has advanced.

Firstly, there is very positive news regarding most of the areas affected. Nearly all of the water companies in the drough-affected areas have excluded window cleaners using waterfed poles from any restrictions. Some have even specifically mentioned window cleaners with regard to exceptions, making it clear that they will not be affected by the proposed hosepipe bans.

Those who carry on window cleaning as a business may still continue to use waterfed poles in the areas served by the following water companies:
Thames Water
Anglian Water
Sutton & East Surrey Water
Southern Water
South East Water

Veolia Water’s Restrictions
Unlike the other water companies, Veolia Wateris proposing to take a different position regarding the hosepipe ban restrictions.

Veolia Water which is actually divided into three water compaies, has made the following statement in their literature:

“Water fed poles are frequently used by window cleaners and are within the definition of ‘anything designed, adapted or used to serve the same purpose as a hosepipe’. These systems use de-ionised water. Where mains water is the source used to create this deionised water, this activity is restricted.”

This departure from the stance taken by other water companies appears to mean that Veolia Water proposes to restrict window cleaning on domestic houses, even by window cleaners who do so as part of their business.

This interpretation of the 2010 Order has several worrying implications

Firstly, if applied in this way, these restrictions would create the illogical situation were window cleaners serving domestic customers were restricted from using waterfed poles, but those serving commercial customers were not.

This would mean, for example, that a window cleaner would be permitted to clean the windows of a guest house with waterfed poles, but doing so at an ordinaryl house next door would not be permitted.

It’s obvious that the 2010 Order was never intended to create such an illogical discrimination against domestic window cleaners, and we believe that this section has been applied unreasonably by Veolia Water.

In addition, Veolia Water has adopted a very narrow interpretation of the exception granted in the 2010 order for Health & Safety reasons, stating that the use itself (rather than the choice of method) must be for H&S reasons for the exception to apply.

Nowhere in the order is there any explanation or clarification to indicate that this is how it should be interepreted, and again we believe that this position is unreasonable.

Impact Assessment
Threatening the livlihoods of hundreds or even thousands of window cleaners by imposing these restrictions is a very serious matter. This, of course, should never be done without very careful consideration and unless the potential gains from doing so outweigh the harm that would be caused.

This being the case, we would expect Veolia Water to have conducted an impact assessment study to see that imposing such damaging restrictions was worthwhile in terms of how much water would be saved.

So far, it appears that no such study has been undertaken by Veolia Water, and this itself is very serious. One cannot argue that certain damaging restrictions are absolutely necessary, unless it is first known how much water will be saved by imposing them.

Hope for a Positive Outcome
It should be noted that window cleaners have faced a similar situation before and enjoyed a positive outcome.

In the droughts of 2006, several water companies proposed restrictions to window cleaning with waterfed poles, and this was followed by a series of public hearings.

It transpired that the water companies had not really understood the difficulties and danger that such restrictions would cause to window cleaners, nor had they really known how much water window cleaners used. They also generally thought that window cleaners connected their waterfed poles to the customers’ water supply.

After successful representations by Craig Mawlam of The BWCA, window cleaners themselves, and other groups, the water companies agreed only to restrict window cleaning with waterfed poles in the 3rd and most severe stage of the drought, which was a perfectly reasonable position.

Veolia Water, which did not exist in its current capacity in 2006, was not part of this process. It may well be that, like those other water companies, Veolia simply do not yet understand how the window cleaning industry now operates.