Friday, 11 October 2013

Think before you drink.

This is the fourteenth day without water on our farm.

The supply yielded a small amount yesterday but that quickly went off again and despite having written to the estate to ask why we have no water, I have not received a reply. So much for the promises of improved communication from the CEO of the Scottish Land and Estates and the estate representative when they sat at our kitchen table.

The situation here is that the supply which has fed the farm since 1890 has ceased. The farm is fed from a reservoir and shares a pipe with a large public school. The public school have embarked on an improved water supply system and it would appear to me that they may know something about the cessation of our farm supply....
The deal was made in 1948 that the school would be allowed to lay a pipe through our farm on the condition that the farm would receive water. This permission was given by the landowner and the tenant farmer had no input into the agreement.

Given the disruption to our crops by an ancient pipe system bursting (or being burst by estate plumbers smashing our pipe with mechanical diggers), the sensible solution would be to replace the pipes along the roadside thus it would make access easier plus it is a shorter distance.
But this would involve common sense - something I find lacking in certain elements around here.

The genius solution the estate came up with was to pump raw water from the little burn, top up the local community holding tank with said burn water and from what I can glean, divert some of the water to the big public school. I mention that my understanding of this is limited due to lack of clear information from the estate.

Further up the burn lie the carcasses of sheep which have died over previous winters. There are pheasant carcasses in the burn too.
A boil water notice has been advised but the practicalities and expense of boiling a lot of water, for example for a bath are impractical. Most people have showers and have discovered that the raw water has damaged the showers given the amount of sediment and solids plus how do you boil water for a shower? You still ingest the water, skin being the largest organ in the human body. Try brushing your teeth with a tub of boiled and cooled water. Try reminding your children that taps are not for drinking water. Try telling children who have learning difficulties not to drink or bathe in the raw water.

I was heartened to read that the Scottish government have pledged an enormous sum of money for overseas aid to assist those suffering health issues due to lack of sanitation and clean water as well as other issues.

I ask that they also take into consideration, the communities in their own country who are also experiencing difficulties due to a lack of clean water plus the constraints of being reliant on an estate who owns the water, charges for the water yet who are incapable of supplying this most basic human resource to those who need a clean, potable, reliable drinking supply.

The alternative is to drill a borehole but the permission of the landowner is required. Given that the landowner collects quite a considerable sum in council rated water charges from each household, I somehow doubt permission would be granted.
The cost of a borehole is between £6,500 and £10,000 and considering the geography of this area plus the fact it lies on a major fault line, there is no shortage of underground water. Several owner/occupier farms have sunk boreholes and have had no issues at all with either supply or quality.
People are afraid to ask permission in case their supplies 'dry up' - just like the farm supply has 'dried up'. I don't know about you but I have issues at having to ask permission to spend a small fortune on sinking a borehole to improve our quality of life, especially when it would end up being considered as a landlord's improvement.

I suspect that our community is not the only one facing such a nightmare as there are roughly 100,000 people on private water supplies (probably owned by a handful of landowners).

Have you visited an area served by private water? Have you ingested putrified sheep/ pheasant carcass? Have your children paddled in burns which may harbour cryptosporidium, Ecoli, etc? Has anyone spread human faeces in the surrounding fields?

In an odd way, our having no water supply is probably safer than being supplied with raw burn water however, we honestly do not know how we can provide water for our livestock when we bring them into the sheds for winter soon. Are we being forced to sell our herd of cattle and flock of sheep due to lack of provision of water? Are we being driven out by drought? It looks like it to me except we are not leaving. No intention of giving up no matter how much the estate tries to harass or make life difficult.

The law itself needs changed but it appears nobody who can change it is listening. Until then, we are at the mercy of the landowners.
God help us.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Sunshine on Dull

Seven days now without any drinking water at the farm.

This came in from the council -

I understand that the FarmAtTheBackOfBeyond cabin and caravan are served by ********** private water supply and that (neighbouring) farm cottage is served by (local parish) private water supply. 

********* Estate have been having problems supplying water to the properties on ****** supply and water was initially tankered to the main tank at (neighbouring farm) before they arranged a temporary abstraction from (the wee local) burn to keep the main tank supplied.  As burn water was being used and the treatment provided at that time was not guaranteed to produce wholesome water PKC issued all properties on the (local parish) supply with boil water notices.  The Estate has also advised occupants not to consume the water.  I understand this situation is still ongoing.

I note that the estate provided you with bowser water from a burn.  This water should certainly be treated as unwholesome and should not be consumed without treatment and/or boiling.

As you are a tenant of *********** Estate you should continue to make representations to them about the provision of water to FarmAtTheBackOfBeyond cabin.  I would suggest you examine the terms of your lease or tenancy agreement to establish who has responsibilities in this matter. 

Yours uncaringly,

The Cooncil

Do you see any reference to supplying our family with clean drinking water? Me neither (sorry for the bold writing all of the sudden).
What I do see is an estate and council who do not care one whit about their tenants/ people who pay tax and council tax.

From what I can glean, a new pipe is being laid somewhere (although the plumbers had not turned up as it was raining) so rather than wear hoods and not be total Jessies, it was easier to keep our supply turned off. We are not informed when the water will go off but find out by turning on the tap.

This rocked up after my requests for drinking water for the farm.

 The dirt is on the inside of the bowser and the water really is a murky green colour.

How do you get the middle tank off the trailer?

"Here is what you could have won" - pumps and everything but sadly.....

The water bowsers, pumps and everything were removed the following morning leaving us with one minging bowser and no means of transporting the water unless by bucket.
21st century Scotland, mind.
(Do the police know that the estate trailer has no number plate?)

Plus this nonsense was going on in the lower field at the same time. The field where the cattle graze.

Looks like a lovely Autumnal landscape until you look right in the centre of the photo. Rather sinister?

Here is a better view.

Blood sport before lunch.

So the list of 'People who could do something to help but are turning a deaf ear/ blind eye' grows. We are only tenant farmers, after all.

Where does the Sunshine on Dull come into the equation?
The answer is that I took such a scunner to the situation that I took off to Dull for a change of scenery. The Birks (birch trees) of Aberfeldy are just beginning to change colour and were beautiful, indeed all the trees between Aberfeldy and Dull wore a different colour.

The people at Karelia House, Dull welcomed me like an old lost friend and plied me with mugs of hot coffee, home baking and all the news.
Their first ever coffee morning at the weekend raised a massive £3034.79 for Macmillan on Saturday. A brilliant amount from such a tiny community and enough to cheer the gloomiest of spirits.

It felt easier to return to the farm after being treated so kindly at Karelia and it helps to strengthen resolve and spirit. A little human kindness goes a long, long way.

Home to a different glen and an indifferent estate.

Home to no water.

Update: Saturday 5th October 2013 - Still no water. Supply was on for a short while but went off again at around 4.30pm.

Sunday 6th October - water still off.

Monday 7th October - no water. Is this now permanent?

Tuesday 8th - No water. Not a drop, plumbers are now digging holes on a neighbouring farm and the huge pump which is supposed to be feeding our farm is  switched off.

Wednesday 9th. Not only is there still no water, the taps are acting like hoovers in that they are sucking air in. I have never seen this happen before. The water supply has literally been sucked dry. No word from the estate.

Friday 11th October - small amount of water yesterday but it went off again and none at all today. I have discovered that other members of the community are afraid to complain to the estate in case their water supply is cut off too. All they can do is refuse to pay the full council water rate which the estate charge each person. Some are afraid to do this.