UK water utilities under fire for unimproved leakage levels

May 12, 2017
Leakage levels across UK water utilities have not fallen for at least four years, according to a new analysis from the Guardian...

LONDON, UK – Leakage levels across UK water utilities have plateaued and have not fallen for at least four years.

That’s according to a new analysis from the Guardian, which has questioned why utilities are asking customers to save water when a significant amount is still lost in the network.

Data from industry regulator Ofwat shows that more than three billion litres of water is lost across the network every day – a level 7% lower than in 2000 but one the Guardian reported is “unchanged for at least four years”.

Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman was quoted as saying: “The fact that water companies have made no progress in reducing water leakage over the past four years highlights the lack of focus and pressure from government on this issue…It is unfair that consumers are being asked to save water when companies are set unambitious targets.”

The country’s largest utility, Thames Water, is reported to have more than double the national average leakage rate.

A spokesperson reportedly said: “We are determined to bring the rate down but large scale mains replacements are disruptive, especially with two-thirds of our network running under the busiest and hardest to reach roads in London.”

Ofwat is responsible for setting individual targets for utilities, based an approach called the economic level of leakage, or ELL.

The Consumer Council for Water said it supports the “principle that the cost of reducing leakage levels should be less than the cost of replacing that water from another source”.

However, the Guardian reported that leak reduction targets set by Ofwat for the period 2015 to 2020 are “zero for six companies in the south and east…the targets would allow more leakage than the levels already achieved by the companies”.

Southern Water said it has committed to reduce leakage to 86 million litres a day by 2020 and to 75 million litres by 2040.

For Anglian Water, a 10% reduction target has been set for 2020, which director Paul Valley reportedly said was a weak target.

“We don’t believe it’s good enough to stop at the targets set by our regulator, not when reducing leakage is so important to customers and so vital for us in this dry part of the world.”

The news comes during what is being called the driest October to March period for 20 years, with rainfall levels two-thirds below normal in April.


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