Water companies need to show more ambition in reducing leakage

Water companies have been challenged to show more ambition in plugging the amount of water lost through leakage, in a new report published by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater).

Delving into Water (pdf) has today (December 17) revealed water companies are continuing to deliver better services for their customers, with consumer satisfaction and trust in the industry on an upward curve – and complaints heading down.

But CCWater is disappointed fewer than half of water companies reduced leakage during the year, at a time when customers are being urged to do more to save water. The industry has committed to reduce leakage over the next five years and the water watchdog will be challenging companies to go beyond their targets.

The report also reveals progress in reducing sewer flooding and interruptions to customers’ water supplies has also been slower than what CCWater had expected.

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of CCWater, said:

“Overall it’s a positive picture and the water industry deserves credit for delivering services that most customers are very satisfied with.

“However, leakage is a key concern for customers and we know it has a big impact on their own motivation to save water. If we want consumers to take water efficiency seriously, water companies need to show more ambition in tackling leakage.”

Delving into Water examined water companies’ performance on a wide range of issues that matter to customers, including complaint handling, payment assistance schemes, sewer flooding, leakage, metering and supply interruptions, as well as drinking water quality and consumption.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Customer satisfaction with water and sewerage services remains high, while satisfaction with value for money also increased in 2014-15.
  • Complaints against water companies fell for the seventh successive year – this time by over 13 per cent. But the poorest performers need to accelerate their improvement.
  • Sewer flooding incidents decreased in 2014-15 with more customers also satisfied with water companies’ efforts to protect them (up to 86 per cent from 68 per cent). But how much of this was due to a drier winter, rather than better planning, is not clear.
  • Leakage levels have been slowly rising since reaching an industry low in 2011-12 and a 0.7 per cent increase during 2014-15 ensured that unwelcome trend continued. Fewer than half of water companies reduced leakage during the year.
  • Interruptions to water supplies have reduced but this is largely due to big improvements of more than 50 per cent by a small number of companies. Nine companies reported an increase in the time their customers were without a continuous supply of water.
  • There has been a slight reduction in the amount of water used by customers – but only one in three consumers has heard about the need to save water.

Read the full report (pdf) and appendices here (excel).