A report on how the government is performing on managing its water resources would make any parent ashamed. At best the progress it is making in a handful of areas can be described as 'patchy'. Most commonly it is rated as 'must try harder' - and in one crucial area it calls for urgent action.
So what's going on, and why are we paying the price?
Report cardBlueprint for Water, a coalition of environmental groups, issued its scorecard - measuring the government's progress against what it believes are the most vital targets for the industry. The results are an embarrassment.
The lowest score was reserved for stopping pollutants contaminating our water - where it said urgent action was needed and that progress was very poor. The next level (where the government must try harder) was awarded in five areas: making polluters pay, retaining water on wetlands, keeping sewage out of homes and rivers and off beaches, cleaning up drainage from roads and buildings, and pricing fairly.
PricesThe issue of pricing is particularly galling. The group calls for universal metering, but it wouldn't hurt to revisit the issue of fairness across the country. Surely it shouldn't be right for cash-strapped families on the brink of poverty in some parts of the country to be paying so much more than wealthy families in other parts - just because of the pricing policies of the local water company.
The highest score achieved at all was just 'progress has been patchy' - which the government scored in the categories of wasting less water, keeping rivers flowing, supporting water-friendly farming and protecting and restoring catchments from source to sea.
Again it's highly disappointing that stopping leaks only achieved a 'patchy' report because of EU standards, while in the UK there has been a real lack of progress. When we pay so much for every drop of water, it's upsetting to see the water companies leak so much of it into the ground.
Overall, the alarming picture is that we are not getting any better at managing water. This means that a few more dry seasons and we could find ourselves in drought conditions again - at the mercy of the weather because we cannot manage the water we have.
As the report shows, failures by the government will leave cash-strapped homeowners paying a fortune for water - and yet having it rationed when we need it most.