IT took a bowser and a lot of hard work but the Ludlow in Bloom volunteers were able to keep plants watered despite what seems like the hottest and driest summer that most people who were not around in 1976 can remember.

Those whose memories go back 42 years will recall hosepipe bans and even stand pipes in the streets in some places.

But this time, at least so far, it has not been so bad although the supply system has creaked at times in some parts of the country.

Yet of all the many things that we take for granted near the top of the list is the ability to get all the water we want to drink, cook, wash and whatever else at the turn of a tap. Just as important is the ability to get rid of our waste at the push of a button or flick of a toilet handle.

Only the rain is free and supplying water is a complex business involving collection, making safe and then distribution to millions of homes and businesses. At the other end of the system an equally complex process occurs before the water is returned safely to our rivers. The water that we enjoy in this country comes from three different sources, some it is collected and stored in reservoirs, some is taken from our rivers and the rest is ground water taken from underground aquifers.

People wonder if we ever truly have a shortage of water in such a wet country.

The answer is yes and no. Whilst there may be plenty of rain it does not always fall in the right place or where it is needed most.

In general terms it rains most in the north and west and the biggest demand is in the south and east where it is dryer.

Unlike electricity or gas, water is not that easy to move and that is why there is no such thing as a national water grid.

Rivers are used to move water and there are long pipelines such as the mains that link the reservoirs of mid Wales to the West Midlands but gravity plays its part. Water can be moved uphill but that involves pumping which requires a lot of energy and is expensive.

Generally, water supply companies do a decent job most of the time getting it to where it is needed. However, there remains a lot of water that goes to waste from faulty mains and pipes.

Whilst some of the infrastructure is old, the supply companies, privatised monopolies, do not do as well as they should at cutting waste from leaky mains. But neither do we as consumers. The average person consumes 140 litres of water every day.

Most domestic properties pay a water rate rather than based upon what they consume - a major disincentive to using water wisely.