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Cumbria's water - and its people - are a fantastic asset
11:03am Thursday 14th June 2012 in Opinion
Born in Oldham and raised in Manchester, my first trip to the Lake District was when I was 11 or 12 years old on a camping trip with a school friend.
It was during five long, carefree summer days on a small campsite near Coniston that the seed was planted. The affair began.
Like generations of urbanites, I was amazed at the beauty and sheer scale of open spaces, the scenery and tranquillity with little villages nestled along the narrow country lanes.
At home, even our local park was surrounded by factories and industrial lock ups.
I remember not being able to stop talking about it, telling friends and family about what I had seen. I may as well have returned from a foreign campaign.
What I didn’t know then was just how much me, my friends and family owed the Lake District. Without it, the North West would simply not be the vibrant, thriving place it is today.
We drank Lake District water. It made us, just as it made our forefathers and will make our grandchildren.
Cumbria supplies more than a third of the region’s water. A lot of it stays in Cumbria, but its precious qualities are felt much, much further afield.
Something else I couldn’t have known is that one day I would have the chance to take care of the landscape I loved.
My role as Cumbria’s water area business manager means I manage that precious journey from source to tap, from the management of the 16,000 hectares of catchment land around our two main reservoirs Thirlmere and Haweswater, to the vast network of treatment works and pumping stations which guarantee it reaches the people who need it in excellent quality.
The thing that has always stood out to me about Cumbria is the people, how open and friendly they are and how their characters and personalities seem to be shaped by the very landscape they live in.
Now that I work with Cumbrians daily, as colleagues and as customers, I have even more respect. In the six short months I’ve been here, I’ve experienced first hand some of the extreme conditions Cumbrians have to contend with.
Do they complain? Rarely. They are resilient, intelligent and resourceful. Being more in tune with their surroundings, it seems to me, that they take less for granted.
The same goes for Cumbrians as colleagues. United Utilities employs some 640 people in Cumbria, and many more scores of contractors and suppliers.
Most of them live as well as work in the communities they serve, and that makes them great ambassadors.
I want to make them even prouder to work for a company which has its heart in the county. We need more people like them.
So much is said and written about the beauty of Cumbria, I’d like to celebrate the uniqueness of its people and I wish more businesses from outside the county would appreciate what they have to offer.
Now that I’m in my 47th year and the proud father of two teenage children I can say that my love for the Lakes is as strong as it has ever been. Now I know more than ever that it’s special not just because of its landscape and its scenery but also because of the people who live and work here.
Cumbria’s water remains one of the jewels in the North West’s crown.
But the shortages in other parts of the country are a reminder that we should never take it for granted.
Whatever the weather, it makes sense to use water wisely. The less water we all use, the more we can leave in the region's rivers.
- United Utilities area business manager KEN LONGSHAW