Rising leakage risks sending the wrong message to consumers

Some water companies risk dampening consumers’ motivation to use water more wisely unless they plug rising levels of leakage, the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has warned.

A new report (pdf) released by the water watchdog today (Wednesday) shows the water industry in England and Wales lost 3.1 billion litres of water every day in 2016/17, with overall leakage levels increasing by just over 1 per cent.

There was a gulf in the performance of the worst and best performers with Thames Water losing around 179 litres of water per property each day, compared to Southern Water with less than 80 litres lost per property each day.

CCWater is concerned that the industry’s efforts to reduce leakage have flatlined over the past five years and the lack of progress could undermine some water companies’ campaigns to help and encourage consumers to value their tap water and use it more efficiently.

Consumers have an important role to play in supporting the industry’s efforts to keep taps running in the face of future pressure from climate change and population growth. But this message is not getting through to consumers with the average person still using 141 litres per day in 2016/17 – up almost 1 per cent on the previous year.

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Consumers view leakage as a dreadful waste and it can drain their own motivation to save water.”

“Some water companies need to show much more ambition in tackling leaks, otherwise all of our efforts to encourage consumers to use water more wisely will fall on deaf ears.”

The largest reductions in leakage in 2016/17 were reported by Affinity Water (-4.4%), United Utilities (-2.8%), Bournemouth Water (-2.6%) and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water (-2.5%).

In contrast, Dee Valley Water (+14.1%), Essex and Suffolk Water (+9.1%), Cambridge Water (+8.2%), Portsmouth Water (+7.6%), Thames Water (+5.4%) and Bristol Water (+5%) reported the biggest increases.

CCWater is supportive of new proposals by the regulator Ofwat for companies to reduce leakage by at least 15 per cent between 2020 and 2025. This should be part of a longer-term strategy to drive down leakage levels even further. Companies can achieve this through embracing new leak-detection technologies and more innovative ways of working.

Despite more water being lost through leaky pipes, the amount of time consumers were left without running water fell by just over three minutes to an average of 10 minutes and 45 seconds per property. Bournemouth Water (1 minute 56 seconds) reported the shortest disruption per property served, just ahead of the previous year’s leader Northumbrian Water. Customers of Affinity Water (21 minutes 6 seconds) and Dee Valley Water (20 minutes 53 seconds) experienced the longest supply interruptions.

Consumers can compare how their water company is performing on a wide range of services by visiting www.discoverwater.co.uk

You can read the full water resilence report here (pdf)

For more information please call the CCWater media team on 0121 345 1005

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