Friday, 15 June 2012

Kent's Water and Rio20

Water, water everywhere… yet more can be done to improve Kent’s water.

Perhaps the Jubilee washout has come at the right time. Along with Thanet’s Blue Flag beaches faced with outflows of sewage over the Bank Holiday Kent’s water supplies have been thrown into stark relief.

Hosepipe bans are still in place with reservoirs only just beginning to refill. With rainfall less than Syria Kent seems to be facing a collapse in future provision of clean drinking water.

With the Rio20 Summit beginning next week to try to resolve many of the world’s environment problems, perhaps greater focus is required on Kent.

Stricter EU guidelines for Blue Flag beaches will keep the pressure on the Environment Agency to ensure Kent’s premium tourist product our beaches and oceans are spotless.

While Southern Water – can they really be making $285M profit by discharging poop to sea when it rains – need to consider if in the county with both the longest coastline and most Blue Flag beaches, if discharge to sea is viable in the 21st century.

And with over 90% of Kent’s water supply drawn from aquifers, there is woeful regulation such as Infratil at Manston having the aquifer both under the runway, and discharging fuel into Pegwell Bay a UNESCO wetland.

The sale of Manston only demonstrates the failure of KCC’s airport policy there and Lydd and Boris Island except as quick-fix dumping grounds far from Maidstone or Windsor.

While the need for using more farmland for reservoirs that fail to refill looks doubtful when desalination plants have already opened in London.

Surely too Margate being used as an impromptu anchorage for cargo ships is a Torrey Canyon-style disaster waiting to happen as well as being a blight on the ocean and eye.

Rio20 will be considering the world’s fish stocks with the Great British Fish and Chips species of cod and haddock facing extinction.

And with Kent’s coast almost fished-out, reviews of fishing discards, and the Marine Protection Zones due off Margate are ever-more important for all Kent, with both Ramsgate as the South Coast’s largest fishing fleet and Hastings as the only beach-landing fleet in the South East.

Consider too that, after the Fukushima tidal wave (and resulting closure of all Japan’s Switzerland’s and Germany’s nuclear stations), the potential is for greater storms and more floods.

But the damage wrought by an incident at Dungeness before it closes down, or EDF and French nuclear policy at Gravelines or dumping off Brittany would be disastrous for Brand Kent as the Garden of England glows nuclear.

If we are all connected then Kent may be at risk not just from rogue companies such as Infratil, Thor and EDF but public sector failure of regulation, and oversight of the regulators such as Southern Water or the Environment Agency.

Fines of public organizations simply result in higher tax bills and not resolving the underlying problems of mismanagement.

Perhaps the greatest failure to date is KCC a $2Bn organization having almost no policy on water supply or river or ocean management. A couple of blokes with a binbag and some photocopied beach closure notices or both the Medway and Stour as the two most polluted rivers in UK doesn’t really cut it in the 21st century does it?

Surely reworking sewage discharges, zero landfill, disposing of dog waste in separate household rubbish, desalination plants, river cleanup and fishfarms and Police “eco-cops” and NHS scrutiny are simple steps forward.

The reality is that Southern Water’s failure on the beaches doesn’t just mean a few days of beach closures but rebounds around the world as Kent being incapable of managing its own natural resources.

A resounding failure, not just in economic growth, but in Brand Kent struggling to live upto its remit as the Garden of England and looking more like a leaky toilet.

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