Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

The opportunist traders making a tidy profit from water shortages

Opportunists are exploiting Northern Ireland’s dwindling reservoirs by selling water at inflated prices, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

As thousands of people struggle to cope without water — some for a second week — a black market has emerged online.

Community website Gumtree, which allows people to place classified adverts for free, has been inundated with local adverts selling water.

The unscrupulous sellers are offering it well above market price.

One seller advertised a two-litre bottle of water for £1, which can be bought for as little as 17p in a supermarket.

When contacted the seller said he could provide large quantities of the bottled water, but insisted the price would remain the same per bottle.

Asked if he was profiteering off people’s misery, he replied: “I am not profiteering. I bought the bottled water wholesale and I’m selling it cheaper than other places. If people want to buy it I’m going to sell it to them.”

Another advertiser was selling two litres of water for £2.

There have also been reports that members of the public have been monopolising emergency water provided by NI Water.

The practice has been condemned by the water company.

A spokeswoman said: “NI Water would, of course, condemn any acts of profiteering and would remind our customers that alternative water supplies are available at locations highlighted on our website, www.niwater.com.

“NI Water is very grateful to the many agencies and organisations who have offered help and assistance at this time.”

Meanwhile, a Castlerock man who has a natural spring on his land is utilising his resources.

He is willing to transport 1,000 litres of water anywhere in Northern Ireland for £200.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: “I watched the news last night and thought what could I do? I have a brand new bowser (tanker) which is filled with spring water that I have been drinking for years.

“I have a truck which I could kit out to transport up to three bowsers. I think £200 is fair for transporting the water.”

Social Development Minister Alex Attwood said anyone deliberately profiteering off the crisis should be “named and shamed”.

“This is a time when the community should be coming together to help each other, not exploiting people. Anyone making money off this situation should be completely ashamed. These people should be named and shamed,” he said.

South Belfast Alliance MLA Anna Lo, who was yesterday helping to distribute water to care homes, was equally appalled.

She said: “This is awful and ruthless. Today an elderly man burst into tears when we brought him water.

“People out there trying to make money out of this situation should be ashamed.”

Basil McCrea, Ulster Unionist MLA for Lagan Valley, described the situation as “disturbing”.

“I have been speaking to elderly people who are buying water because they are living in fear,” he said. Inflating prices to make money out of this crisis is obscene. If this situation continues to escalate people will become irate about this.”

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