I like to think of myself as a bit of an eco-warrior, or what Jeremy Clarkson calls an eco-mentalist.

I don't run a car, a motorbike, a tumble dryer or an electric can opener.

I buy milk in plastic cartons rather than getting deliveries in glass bottles, and feel guilty about it.

I'm pretty conscientious about reducing, reusing and recycling.

I even take the paper labels off tins of soup or baked beans and add them to the paper recycling before the can goes in the box for glass and metal.

Maybe it's self-congratulatory for me to say so. But why not congratulate yourself sometimes, when you deserve it?

But we all have our green sins. Mine is a fondness for baths. On weekdays I stick to showers but on Sunday evenings I'll often allow myself a long soak in a bubble bath.

Baths are environmentally unfriendly for two reasons. One is the energy used in heating the water. The second is the water itself.

What's not always understood is that globally water is actually a valuable, and scarce, resource. Some put it on a par with oil.

There might be lots of it but only very little is actually usable. Of all the water on the planet, 97 per cent is salt water in our oceans.

Two per cent is frozen in ice caps and glaciers. As global temperatures rise, these melt into our oceans and also become salt water.

So only one per cent is left for human consumption and sanitation. And a rising human population means rising demand for water.

But what can you do about it back at home when the British water industry is wasting so much of it?

Around 2,900 million litres of water is lost every day through leaking pipes. That's 20 per cent of the entire supply.

And Cumbria's supplier, United Utilities, is one of the worst offenders.

It has the second worst record, losing 133 litres per property every day.

It's well above the water industry's average of 121 litres per household per day - and second only to notorious Thames Water, which loses 150 litres.

It does make my Sunday evening baths seem like a drop in the ocean.

If all these water firms were strapped for cash and couldn't afford to fix leaky pipes then I could understand it.

But they aren't. This year United Utilities made an operating profit of £636 million.

An investigation by the GMB union shows that Northumbrian Water - owned by a conglomerate registered in the Cayman Islands - has paid out more than £530 million to shareholders in the past five years.

And yet United Utilities had planned to impose a hosepipe ban last week, under which customers caught using one would have been fined £1,000.

Heavy rain allowed them to lift the ban, but they have warned that it could come back later in the summer.

It's the height of hypocrisy for such a wasteful company to warn us against waste.

No ban would be needed at all if they weren't losing so much water themselves. If customers wasting it were to be fined, then the company should face a fine for far greater waste.

But this is what we've come to expect from private operators of vital public services. Northern Rail weren't the only example.

Payments for shareholders will always come above improvements to the service for the people they make their money from, the water bill payers or train passengers.

When water was privatised, the ads stated: "You too can be an H2Owner" - rather missing the point that, under nationalisation, we already were all H2Owners.

A regulatory body called Ofwat was set up, but it didn't stop the firms breaking the law.

In 2013 and 2014 Thames Water pumped 1.4 billion litres of raw sewage into the Thames and were fined only £20.3 million.

No doubt they were able to recoup the cost by sacking staff.

We can still be public spirited about water use even if the water firms aren't entitled to tell us to. I'll forgo my Sunday evening baths for now. And I'll skip a few shaves.

Sunglasses, shorts, T-shirts, sandals and cotton dresses were always the apparel of summer days. This year the fashion could include designer stubble.