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Water companies increase action on fixing leaks

Press release
Infrastructure
31 July 2018
Lady and daughter pour tap water into a glass

Water companies have confirmed they are taking extra action to fix leaks this summer, and are planning ambitious new leakage targets for the future.

The additional effort being put into tackling leakage was set out in detail at a meeting between several water company chief executives and Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP in London earlier today (Tuesday 31 July 2018).

Many companies have doubled the number of teams seeking out and fixing leaks, and they're working with customers to help identify leaks quickly so that they can be fixed as soon as possible.
Companies are also using satellite technology, drones, and underground listening equipment to spot less obvious leaks in the system, such as in the countryside where they might go unnoticed and reported. Many companies are rescheduling non-urgent work in order to focus as much effort as they can on repairing leaks, including leaks in customers’ own pipes which fall outside companies' responsibilities.

During the regular National Drought Group meeting hosted by the Environment Agency on Monday 23 July companies reported that most visible leaks are being fixed within a day, and almost all within three days. Water companies are very aware that customers get irritated by leaks that they can see flowing for a number of days, often those which occur in the middle of roads. The delays to fixing these kind of leaks can often be due to difficulties obtaining permission to close roads and divert traffic, especially in busy areas, but companies are working closely with local authorities to ensure permission is granted swiftly during the heatwave.

During the summer there are always more new bursts on the water network as the ground dries and moves, weakening joints and causing cracks in pipes. The prolonged high temperatures this summer have resulted in more pipe bursts than normal in a short period of time.

The other peak time for pipe bursts occurs in the winter. Around half of water companies met or beat leakage targets agreed with customers for 2017/18, but the ‘Beast from the East’ was a major factor in the industry’s figures for this year. Most of the companies who missed their targets were hit by the extreme weather, which is disappointing as up until then almost all were on track to meet their targets. Companies are preparing their action plans ahead of next winter in the aftermath of the 'Beast from the East' as well as increasing their response to the new summer bursts.

Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said:

“Leakage is a big priority for the industry. We know how important it is for customers, and since the mid-1990s companies have successfully managed to reduce leakage levels by a third. But we also know there is more to do, which is why water companies are currently developing ambitious plans to cut leakage even further. As well as increasing their work on leakage now, companies are all currently finalising plans to cut leakage by at least a further 15%, with some companies preparing to go even further.”

Water UK Communications
0207 344 1805