“The question becomes, how far are you willing to go to protect it and preserve it, and make sure it’s still there 8,000 years from now,” he says.
This question turned a lifelong love of fishing into a fiery campaign that began in the 1990s, when Sharkey and his fellow club members tried to figure out why their beloved River Lea completely disappeared.
It took 20 years of fruitless research and campaigning to find and fix the problem — too much water was being drained through a flood channel — and the river is “a hell of a lot better” than it was five or six years ago, he said. say.
The experience opened up a world of mismanagement, underinvestment and regulatory failure. None of Britain’s rivers is in good health.
The next big problem, he says, is water shortage. London threatens to become one of the world’s most water-deprived cities, with a growing population and overabsorption from chalk flows, putting significant pressure on supplies in the south east.
A 2017 report by the London Resilience Forum and Thames Water warned that drought was a “real and current threat to the capital”, while a 2018 study by researchers at the University of Oxford concluded that the city faces “frequent and severe” water shortages, and should resolve leaks and recycle water more efficiently to reduce the potential impact.
Risk of running out of water
In a 2020 report, the National Audit Office warned that “if more coordinated action is not taken now, parts of the south and south-east of England will be without water within the next 20 years”, while the Committee on Climate Change considers water shortages of the five “priority risks” facing the UK.
“That’s the thing that’s going to tip the scales. That’s the right size. Because when people turn on their tap and no water comes out, you’ve really let the cat out of the bag.
“There is no more kick to the can on the road. And it has nothing to do with the environment. 25 million people in London and the South East are now dangerously close to running out of drinking water.”
His background in regulation (he was a member of the Radio Authority between 1998 and 2003) means he has a plan.
Water should be regulated like broadband or energy, with infrastructure centrally controlled and expanded, but local suppliers opened up to direct competition, he says, rather than the regional monopolies that currently exist.
“Then you as a consumer have a choice – you can deal with that multinational greedy bastard over there, taking every cent out of the environment they can get away with, or this other company that’s going to give them a little bit of competition, offer a different service” , he says.
He is harming environmental charities, which he says should stop contacting the government.
“Whatever you’ve done for the past 30 years, it hasn’t helped. It failed. It’s a pretty embarrassing year-end report for the environmental lobby.”