David Cameron announced this morning that water cannon will be available to London police at 24 hours' notice. It comes straight after a YouGov poll out today finding 9 out of 10 British people saying police should be able to use water cannon.
Yesterday, some information came through on water cannon (HT to Chris, a GP National Volunteer and Scott Reading) which needs to be made widely known:
Water cannon are occasionally used in Northern Ireland, but have never been used on the British mainland.
Water cannon use high power jets at 5 to 25 bar (73-360psi) well within the threshold for serious injury. Likely direct injuries include eye injuries, bruising including to internal organs, brain injuries, and strain injuries. Indirect injuries from debris energised by the water and falls are also high. In 2010, 66-year-old Dietrich Wagner was blinded by water cannon at the Stuttgart 21 protests in Germany.
Water cannon are seriously operationally limited. Using 4000 gallons in as little as 4 minutes necessitates continuous refilling, guarding water sources and use of several units at once. Additionally, the large units have restricted mobility and manoeuvrability, and so, are nearly useless against mobile crowds in narrow streets.
At a cost of around £800k per unit the initial purchase and continuous maintenance costs of water cannon are considerable and, in light of cuts to police, unaffordable.
By their very nature, water cannon are indiscriminate and cannot be used in a precise and targeted manner without also hitting anyone in the vicinity including innocent parties. They also have a long history of repressive use against the civil rights movement in the US, and protesters in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and the Middle East.