Sunday, 17 June 2012

Pete Bowler

Today I seemed to be in a mood for some nostalgia, I don't know why but I was minded of an old acquaintance from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. In the mid 80's I met an activist called Pete Bowler. He was interested in many of the natural history, conservation and wildlife issues that have interested me. 

Pete led on campaigns run by Waterwatch. He was a vigorous campaigner against  the effects of industrial pollution upon the environment. Despite being known for his genial and friendly manner, he was proud of his confrontations with government and big business. Pete frequently filled in the word "troublemaker" on forms requesting his occupation, occasionally changing it to "shit-stirrer". His motto, on everything from his battles with water companies to animal surveys was: "You show me a pile of crap, and I'll show you who did it."

He was an out spoken critic of the water industry. Especially the large water companies. I remember one very profound comment he made. I did not make much of it at the time. This is my best shot of how I remember the conversation going.

Water companies want to meter the water supply as a method of reducing consumer demand. Using less water is not a bad idea in itself. It will help to maintain river flow levels. However, when you want to reduce demand because your system leaks too much. Plus the water companies see this as a cost saving because repairing leaks costs more than fitting a meter. It is a national scandal.

One day in the future, we will go through a period of natural drought caused by reduced rainfall. The water table will fall over time. This will cause significant ground movement damaging the old water infrastructure. After the drought the water table will raise again and ground movement will be exacerbated even further. Leakage rates will go through the roof as pipes crack and collapse.

The gamble taken by the water companies will fail. At which point even when there is plenty of water available the leakage rate will be so high that the water supply will be rationed and the water companies will want the tax payer to fund fixing the leaks - Because of the "unforeseen" disaster caused by a period of drought. London will be worst hit.

The last few years have led up to a drought in the ground water table. It will be interesting to see if all the rain we are getting now will bring the prediction true. 

Pete predicted that London would be worst hit. Thames Water and their infamous untreated discharges happen up to 50 or 60 times a year with up to 20 million tons of untreated sewage going into the river because of moderate rainfall blocking the sewer systems.

Pete had a way with words. Most people would look at a derelict northern industrial site as a wasteland. Pete would view the site from the standpoint of nature reclaiming back the land. He saw what others would dismiss as just weeds as nature in the raw. Pete was best described as an Environmental Champion. He wrote "Country Diary" in the Guardian newspaper until his untimely death in his early 50's in 2005. A Google search on "Pete Bowler Country Diary" will find many of his contributions to the Guardian.



  1. Hi,

    I just noticed that my blog is in your Blog of the Month section and I wanted to say a huge Thank You!

    You are most kind.


    PS-no need to publish this comment if you don't want to.

  2. What I find particularly annoying about the introduction of water meters is the water companies argument that it will save US money.

    They make X profit from selling us water, if we use less they will only increase the price so that their profits are maintained. We use less, but will end up paying the same just to maintain their profit margins and the directors 'fat cat' bonuses.



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