I REMEMBER news footage on the television from the war in the Balkans that showed besieged people in the city of Sarajevo braving sniper fire in order to fill containers with water.

The imperative to have a supply of water was such that despite the fact they knew they could be shot and killed, they still had to go and get it.

Under the dire circumstances those poor people found themselves, water was more important than heating, electricity and even food.

In the hierarchy of needs, it’s right there at the top of the list.

Having established that water is the most basic of human needs, wouldn’t you have thought that in a civilised, First World country such as ours, we would have established a system that ensured everyone had access to safe, clean drinking water at the cheapest possible price?

According to Wikipedia, one of the earliest champions for nationalisation of the water supply and sewerage system was Joseph Chamberlain, who argued in 1884 that: “It is difficult, if not impossible to combine the citizens’ rights and interests and the private enterprise’s interests, because the private enterprise aims at its natural and justified objective, the biggest possible profit.”

But as we all know, that is exactly what we have now.

Water companies started off as private concerns, were gradually taken into public ownership then flogged off to the private sector again in 1989.

Now we are all beholden to the monolithic United Utilities for our water and I’m not happy.

Oh the irony this week as I looked out of my window at the pouring rain to be greeted by the news that United Utilities was the first water company in mainland UK to announce a hosepipe ban.

The ban will come into force on August 5, and will apply to domestic customers who get their supply from United Utilities, with the exception of some customers in Cumbria, where supplies remain at reasonable levels.

Martin Padley, United Utilities water services director, said: “Despite some recent rainfall, reservoir levels are still lower than we would expect at this time of year and we are now at a point where we will need to impose temporary restrictions.

“It is not a decision we have taken lightly and we are enormously grateful to customers for having helped reduce the demand on our network over the past couple of weeks, but unless we get a period of sustained rainfall before August 5 these restrictions will help us safeguard essential water suppliesr.”

What happens if if the ban doesn’t work, I wonder. Will we be reduced to standpipes and water bowsers in the the streets?

I watched a United Utilities spokeswoman justifying her company’s actions on television this week. All well and good, I thought, but I am still not happy with the fact that a huge proportion of water shifted around the United Utilities’ system is lost to leaks.

Nor am I happy that a significant amount of my ‘water rates’ goes to paying the company’s chief executive.

According to the Warrington Guardian, the boss of United Utilities has taken home £12m in salary, bonuses, pensions and benefits in the past five years according to the latest figures.

Chief executive Steve Mogford earned an eye-watering £2,310,000 in 2017 alone.

Then there are all the payouts to shareholders.

And please tell me, what other private company can fine you up to £1,000 if you don’t do what it orders you to do?

United Utilities can if you break the hosepipe ban.

We hear calls for the railways to be re-nationalised, which is fair enough, but right at the top of my wish list is to take water back into public ownership.

And the sooner the better.

I see that Highways England has announced that drivers could be allowed to travel at increased speed through motorway roadworks depending on what day of the week they are travelling. Following earlier trials to increase the speed limit through roadworks from 50mph to 55mph or even 60mph, the company is going to test if varying speed limits could safely be operated within a set of roadworks.

Absolute madness.

It’s bad enough having to navigate the 20 miles of narrow lanes and roadworks on the M6 towards Crewe as it is with the current 50mph limit.

Letting drivers go even faster through those roadworks is a recipe for disaster.