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.


  1. All that's missing in your life is a United Nations encampment upstream, spreading Cholera, as in Haiti.
    So sorry that you are facing this, again/still.

  2. Dear GO
    I do not think your blog post is accurate or a fair representation of the current facts. I am aware that the estate has been communicating with you over recent weeks and continues to do so.

    I think your suggesting that the estate has purposely cut off your water supply is really quite unhelpful and clearly not true. I am also aware that a substitute supply from a nearby burn has been used to reinforce the supply as a temporary measure - however I know a boil notice still remains in place and this must be making things difficult. It is fortunate in this respect that you are not currently living on the farm and have other residential accommodation in the nearby area. Water for your stock is of course an issue, but I am sure they are used to drinking burn water.

    I know the estate are working hard to resolve this matter for you and the others in your community and I would hope you could work with them to make progress on this issue and find a long term solution.

    Best regards

  3. Douglas McAdam,
    You would not know as you do not live here but I can assure you that the cabin has been without a water supply for two weeks. The farm supply has been sporadic, sometimes a reduced pressured supply for an hour but mostly dry. The neighbouring village, primary school and outlying hamlet have been without a potable water supply since July.

    The estate have been ambiguous and confusing with their information and if you read communication from other residents in the area, you will note their confusion with the estate communication as well.

    As you are well aware having visited our farmhouse, given the absence of a complete roof compounded with no water (and no electricity in the farmhouse), I feel it is a sensible assumption that no family can live in these conditions safely therefore I have had to rent a house on another estate.

    Would you and your family live in these conditions, Mr McAdam?

    With regard to the estate 'working hard' to resolve the matter, I would advise them to try harder for the health and safety of this community.

  4. Dear GO
    I do understand the situation and it does help that I have visited your farm. I am also in close contact with the estate and so also know what they are doing to try and resolve this water supply issue and the other issues with your farm, including the roof. On the water supply I would again suggest, as I did when we met together with the estate and your MP, that everyone in the area needs to work together to get a long term solution. As I have said before I am happy to help as I can. You have my contacts.
    Best regards

  5. I forgot to add that the temporary house that we live in was without any water for 39 days plus it has not been without its own issues re being contaminated with human sludge etc. The lack of water here was the reason I began this blog.

    The local community wish to discuss the water situation so I suggest you attend the proposed meeting - again, the estate are vague about the date or place.
    Are the estate prepared to supply our farm with a borehole?

  6. I've read Douglas McAdam's comments with interest.

    He seems to indicate that you are not making an effort to work with the estate to find solutions but to readers of this blog it is clear that you have tried to do so and been disappointed in the response.

    I don't care either for his inference that you are not giving the full picture on your posts are not the place to recite every bit of correspondence, after all.

    He seems well supplied with jaw jaw....where what is needed is war war as the comparitive power of yourselves and the estate is so very different.

  7. the fly in the web, I see this as an attempt to discredit our family.

    We have asked for a roof for seven years and whilst a preliminary look was made by a surveyor in July, he has not returned to make a proper survey despite my asking the estate repeatedly.

    Given the water supply situation affects an entire community, I would urge a meeting in the village hall as soon as possible rather than concentrate on one family who live in the community. Mr McAdam can then hear for himself, the depth of feeling and how the water supply is affecting people.

    The estate ought to have acted sooner re our farmhouse and water and why they did not has me puzzled. What they want from me is unclear plus there is little I can do as the land and water belongs to the landowner.

    It is not an issue of finding solutions but rather solving problems which have been brought to their attention for years.

    Here they are:

    1. Replace farmhouse roof
    2. Sink borehole or replace water supply to farm with clean water and filtration.
    3. Replace the march fence (which should have been done when they rented the neighbouring farm to a new Limited Duration tenant).
    4. Find another suitable area for pheasant shooting on the vast acres elsewhere, well away from the farm and where people live. Do not take the best farmland from people without compensation then demand another area when the area taken is rendered sterile through bad husbandry by the shooting tenants.

    Surely it is common sense for the estate to rectify the problems on their farms quickly rather than threaten me with legal action for writing about our life on this farm?
    This is one reason why people are afraid to speak out. The solution is not legal action but rather proactive work on the houses and water. What is wrong with sending in builders/ fencers/ joiners etc and just getting on with the job? Or going round the estate houses and asking the tenants if they have leaking roofs, damp or other problems?

    Would those who own the estate or work for the estate live like we are expected to live?

    What our family are asking for is not unreasonable. We are not unreasonable people, far from it but there is only so much we can do and it is then up to the estate to act upon the solutions rather than procrastinate and drag the issues into another year.

    Send in the roofers/ a drilling rig/ get the shooting tenant off our case/ mend fences. Job done, end of problem.

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