Thursday, 13 October 2011

Burst Water Main - A Metaphorical Tale

At 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, a mains water pipe at the top of the hill burst.  The water continued to flow –  an awful lot of it out onto the road, down the gutters and pavements, washing leaves and litter (McDonalds cartons, Tesco bags, lager cans, fag packets) down the hill, distracting small children on their way to nursery and scaring their mums, ending up (as water does) in a lake at the bottom, beyond the capacity of the already rather feeble drains, rat-running cars and vans having to steer round it.  This went on for a day and a night.

Once a team from the water company had turned up, closed the road and started up their drills and diggers, the flow, which had turned yellowish-brown by now, went down to a rill, then a trickle, then ceased, leaving a load of silt in the gutters and on the pavements.   By Friday, they had filled in their hole, re-opened the road and departed, leaving the silt behind.  Rat-run traffic got back to normal.  No long-term harm done.  The rain washed the silt away down the drains.

The above is all true.  What follows is made up.

Turns out that the reason the water main burst was that, in order to supply the new housing estate, the water company felt obliged to increase the pressure down the main, so that’s what they did.  But the housing estate was uninhabited, because the houses couldn’t be sold.  So the increased pressure had nowhere to go.  By a bizarre coincidence, everyone in the avenue happened to turn their mains taps off at exactly 11.30 on that Tuesday.  The pipe couldn’t cope.

The authorities knew that water companies are too big to fail.  They quickly installed even more powerful pumps at the top of the mains pipe, to ensure that this near-catastrophic supply failure could never happen again.  They also took measures to ensure that, if anyone should be silly enough to move into the new housing estate, they wouldn’t be able to afford water.  And they outsourced silt disposal to a newly-formed Russo-Chinese consortium.


  1. Our water company recently sent us notice that works will be undertaken, and the disruption will last for approx 8 weeks. Sure enough, the contractors arrived on Monday and, so far, they've been very creative, cutting neat trenches of various shapes and sizes, all around the Close. I can't wait to see what they have planned for the next 7 weeks.

  2. I feel a bit depressed now.