A KENDAL man is to feature in a six-part TV series featuring the ups and downs of life working for water company United Utilities.

John Butcher, 52, the company’s regional aqueducts manager and self-confessed pipeline anorak, will be seen on BBC2’s Watermen: A Dirty Business.

Although John did not appear in the first episode, screened on Tuesday, he is looking forward to seeing the series.

“When I saw myself on screen the first thing I thought was that I need to lose about three stone,” he said. “It makes you reflect on the job that we do when you see it through someone else’s eyes.

“It is really interesting. I am looking forward to seeing what people think. I knew I’d hit the big time when my photo made page 16 of TV and Satellite Weekly.

“I think they shot more than 750 hours of footage for the six episodes and at times it felt like we saw more of the film crew than our own families. They became friends.”


John joined United Utilities as a technician in 1987 and within two years was managing the company’s northern aqueducts.

“I had a Land Rover, the Lake District and the best aqueducts in the country, an association that would remain throughout my 26 year career.

“It’s still my dream job but these days much more of my time is spent above ground and in meetings. Fortunately I can still sneak out and hug the odd pipe from time to time,” he said.

Originally from Doncaster, John comes from good engineering stock. His grandfather was a driver on the Flying Scotsman.

He is married to Helen and has two sons, Ben, 20, and Tom, 18, and a black labrador called Charlie. None have any interest in pipes.

Outside work John’s second love is his KTM motorbike. He also gives evening lectures about his work which have earned him accolades everywhere from the Institute of Civil Engineers to Langwathby Women’s Institute.

Cumbrian employees who appeared in the first episode included catchment manager Paul Phillips, from Pooley Bridge, who manages the company’s 40,000 acres of water-gathering land and reservoirs in the Lake District, and headworks controller Dave Oakley-Jenner, who lives in Carlisle, who looks after dams including Haweswater and Wet Sleddale, both near Shap.

The documentary is made by Mentorn Media.

Executive producer Hannah Wyatt said: “Without clean water we couldn’t survive. It’s easy to think it just falls from the sky and someone collects it but in fact it’s a huge and complex operation from customer services to ground breaking engineering projects. The series goes behind-the-scenes of this process and meets the unsung heroes who keep our taps flowing.”