The Value of Water, Explained by Two Grannies

Those witty folks at Yorkshire Water UK are at it again, with time with a kooky campaign centered on two thrifty Grannies. “Edna and Mary” urge us to “Look ‘ow much you get for your money!” and are backed by a spot on the telly, their own corner of “t’interweb,” and of course, Twitter and Facebook.

It’s a wide stream of slapstick silliness surrounding know-it-all Edna and disheveled Mary. But grounding it all is the fact that Grannies everywhere will definitely be paying a lot more for water in the future. It’s no joke that many people don’t comprehend the huge (and escalating) costs and complex infrastructure required to deliver the cheap, clean tap water we take for granted. From the video’s YouTube page,

Research has highlighted to us that nearly 40% of our customers don’t know what they get for their money when it comes to their water bill. It’s important to us that our customers understand what they get for their money so we’ve launched this latest campaign to explain where your money goes.

The website is loaded with campy jokes and stereotypical dialogue which sometimes goes a bit too far; despite this, the two frugal frumps are a gateway to a lot of valuble, concise information, like “How do we spend your money?” or “how we collect and treat your water.”

YouTube commenters have quickly piled on with the expected criticisms, mostly on the theme of you’re wasting the public’s money on this stupid campaign and advertising.

A mentor of mine once told me, “If you’re not being criticized, you’re not making progress.” He was right.

Embedded video below or view on YouTube here.

Are you a Numptee?

Numptee is the charmingly clueless character starring in Yorkshire (UK) Water’s new public education campaign, “Bin it, don’t flush it.”

You can’t help but smile at his silly antics though they spotlight a serious problem: sewer blockages and flooding, half of which are caused by Numptee and his buds putting inappropriate items down the drain. From campaign headquarters at,

Numptee, did you just put that cooking fat down the sink?

Numptee, did you just put that cooking fat down the sink?

Yorkshire’s sewers are being abused and it’s causing all kinds of problems. You wouldn’t believe some of the things we find down the sewer – nappies, false teeth, fat, Christmas trees and even a Spacehopper! As funny as that sounds, all of these things can cause the sewer to stop working and this can lead to flooding.

Hmmm, are we talking about you? You might be a “Numptee” if:

  • you’re one of the 40% of people who dump fats, oils and grease down the sink
  • you’re among the 25% who think it’s OK to put items like cotton buds, nappies or sanitary products down the toilet.

Now, Numptee’s handlers at Yorkshire Water aren’t idiots so naturally the campaign is multi-media and backed by numerous social-media channels. You can follow the red-lipped phenom on Twitter (@MrNumptee) because…

By following Mr Numptee on twitter you’ll be able to see if we are dishing the dirt in your neighbourhood and take a sneaky peak at some of the unusual things that block up our sewers – yes that’s right we really do find strange things down there including one particular problem with knickers!!!

Where's Numptee Jr.'s dirty nappie headed?

If you’re like me, you don’t want to miss a single episode on Yorkshire Water’s YouTube channel. Contest-entering types can give their creative interpretations of exactly what kind of creature Numptee is (see the WIN tab) with top entries receiving cinema tickets, where…that’s right, Numptee trailers will be playing!

I found a lot of interesting information on the campaign’s web pages, including a neat tip to make “Bird Cakes” out of waste fats (the recipe is here.)

Numptee? Bin there, done that. You: don’t do it.

*Britspeak Glossary for Americans!

Bin: Trash can
Cotton Buds: Q-tips or cotton swabs
Knickers: underwear
Nappie: Diaper
Numptee: Dolt, or idiot
Spacehopper: Child’s sit-on bouncing toy

What’s Cookin’? Tomato Surprise!

Sewerage Garden (photo: Yorkshire Water)

Sewerage Garden (photo: Yorkshire Water)

Care for some “organically grown” tomatoes? Dozens of tomato plants are sprouting up in sewage works and places where sewage travels in a process that works like this: 1) people eat tomatoes; 2) people excrete tomato seeds; 3) seeds travel via wastewater to sewer works; 4) seeds resurface as stray plants in odd sewage- and sludge-touched locations.

It’s not an uncommon occurrence, but this year’s poo produce crop is apparently impressive! From the Yorkshire Water website,

Over the course of the summer, hundreds of tomato plants have sprung up at our treatment works across the region, often sprouting in some of the most unlikely of places, including skips full of toilet paper and other rags removed during the treatment process.

And whilst there have been instances in the past of tomatoes cropping up at works in the region, it is thought that the higher-than-usual temperatures over the summer, coupled with regular bouts of rainfall, have played their part in ensuring many of our works can boast a bumper yield this year.

They arrive at sewage works where some are among the waste removed at the first stage of the treatment process before being compressed and stockpiled in skips – and it’s in these that many tomato plants have taken root and flourished.

If you should see a mysterious tomato sprouting randomly in the wild, it might be because…umm…most of the seeds find their way into

…much-sought-after compost, which is then distributed to farms and local authorities.  Invariably, the compost contains tomato seeds which grow into plants, prompting regular stories from farmers who report rogue tomatoes growing among their crops.

Tomatos sprout from Hoboken sidewalk cracks (photo:

Tomatoes sprout from Hoboken sidewalk cracks in 2007 (photo:

In 2007, citizens in Hoboken, New Jersey protested that wayward tomato plants mysteriously growing in desolate urban settings testified to the severity of the city’s flooding and sewer overflow problems. As reported on,

“We know raw sewage is backing onto our streets. You can’t say that this is definitively from the flooding, but it’s very possible,” said Dawn [Zimmer]. “These tomatoes were not planted here. Does this look like a community garden to you?” The plants are growing in an empty lot, filled with mud and gravel. In one spot, gnarled tomato plants are even growing out of cracks in the sidewalk. On Marshall Drive, they are growing from underneath a chainlink fence.

I guess this is teaching us, in semi-biblical fashion, that you reap what you go. Get cookin’!
Recipe: Aunt’s Florence’s Tomato Surprise
(Ingredients include—seriously!—canned tomatoes.)