Failure to stem leakage undermines water efficiency campaigns says watchdog

Water companies “risk dampening consumers’ motivation to use water more wisely” by failing to stem leakage, the Consumer Council for Water (CC Water) has warned.

In a report last week the watchdog said there was a “gulf” between the lowest and worst company leakage records and it was concerned that industry efforts to stem leakage had “flatlined over the past five years.”

CC Water said that lack progress in reducing leakage levels “could undermine some water companies’ campaigns to help and encourage consumers to value their tap water and use it more efficiently.”

CC Water chief executive, Tony Smith, 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.”

A Water UK spokesperson said: “Water companies spend millions of pounds each year, which has helped to cut leaks by a third since the mid-1990s and most companies are still beating their targets. We’ve had some major successes in combatting leakage over the years, and at the same time we know that people want to do the right thing and use water wisely to help the environment.”

According to the CC Water report, Water water everywhere, 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.

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.

The watchdog said consumers were not getting the message that they had an important part to play in curbing leakage. It reported that average daily consumption was 141 litres – up more than 1% on the previous year.