Archive for Water Companies

How do you run out of Sand?

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Engineering, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by awickerman

In yet another triumph of reporting old news I can now reveal India is running short of sand. This problem has been going on for quite some time, at least as far back as February 2010 in fact, but has only recently come to my attention as it has finally affected something important; tunnels.

Yes part of the latest attempt to provide fresh clean water to Bombay has been held up due to a lack of sand. As to how the question ‘How do you run out of sand’ there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer. It looks like a combination of (presumably) well intentioned environmental legislation and a vicious sand tax. In any event there’s a lot less sand about the place, production is down 95%, and prices are up six fold to 12,000 rupee per brass. (Why they use the word brass instead of 100 cubic feet is a good question. As is the question of why they still use cubic feet. But those are good questions for another time.).

One of the few points everyone agrees on is that there is no physical shortage of sand, it’s just people aren’t allowed to get at it/have to pay too much to get it. Indeed the last attempt to auction off new sand mining sites flopped because the licences were too expensive. I confess to being a little unsure over this entire affair. Certainly you can’t imagine this happening in China, they’d just shoot the judges and environmentalists and then order everyone back to the sand mines. That the Indian courts feel they can bring the entire construction industry to a standstill on environmental reasons is certainly a very ‘Western’ thing to do, I’m just not sure it’s a good thing.



Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Tunnels with tags , , , , , on October 19, 2010 by awickerman

One of the minor foibles of engineering is the insistence of many clients on using different calendars. This has recently been a quite hilarious issue on a job where a large water scheme must cross the railways.

Network Rail use a calendar where weeks start on the personal tax year, the 6th of April, while the Water companies have a ‘water year’ that runs September to September (that way their annual rain data will catch the whole of winter). Of course both organisations also have financial years¬† that run from the 1st of April, the dates they used when they were still state owned and occasionally throw in references to the actual calendar year.

All this is fine, until someone starts talking about ‘Week 40’ and you have absolutely no idea which of the various calendars they are using.

Fortunately Network Rail have a built-in system to protect from such mistakes; ludicrous delays giving everyone time to think things through carefully. On trying to book some time on track to put in some monitoring our liaison chap was told we could get access “Next August”. “August 2011?” he asked. “August 2012”¬† came the reply.

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