Monday, 14 July 2014

Water Supply Problems

Achnaha township has been experiencing problems with its water supply which illustrate one aspect of the difficulties of living in small, remote communities. The township has never been supplied by Scottish Water, but has a communal water supply which feeds all the houses and the crofts - there are currently seven properties occupied full-time in Achnaha, plus a holiday letting chalet, a holiday home, and several crofts that also require water. The supply is drawn from the lochan at the top of the hill above Sanna (see lower photo), and runs to a holding tank fairly high on the hill, and from there through a pipe to Achnaha. The water coming from this isn't purified in any way, so each household has to filter or clean it as best it can.

From time to time there are problems, such as a blockage at the inlet to the tank or (very rarely) drought, or a leak, open hosepipe, or excessively heavy use which drains the tank. The supply to some houses can also freeze in very severe winters. But the community, working together, usually sorts out these problems within a day.

The water failed completely last Tuesday morning. The tank was emptied and cleaned on Wednesday, but to no avail. On Saturday those working on it thought they'd cracked the problem when an eel was found stuck in the pipe, but the flow didn't last long and they feared that it might be a leak in the holding tank. Then, on Sunday, they found a further problem - a clod of peat had blocked the inlet pipe to the tank. By the end of the day the water was back on.

Responsibility for the supply is complex. The supply was established to serve the crofts, and private, decrofted properties which have been connected since don't seem to have any right on it, though most are supplied. The authorities, such as Scottish Water, seem to have no interest whatsoever, except they do test supplies on private supplies - at the property owner's expense. So it's left to the community, and this isn't easy since different members have different demands. For example, the whole system probably needs a thorough upgrade, but this is expensive and will not, therefore, be supported by those who have a smaller demand. Some members of the community feel that government, at whatever level, should intervene to ensure that all communities, however small, are served by a reliable, clean water supply - which is, after all, what the rest us expect.

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