Company chiefs tell Gove they are pulling out the stops on leakage

As the heatwave continues, water companies last week assured environment secretary, Michael Gove, of the efforts they are making to address leakage.

Water UK reported, following a meeting on Tuesday between water company chiefs and Gove, that companies are taking extra action to fix leaks now and will fall into line with Ofwat’s target to reduce leakage by 15% at least by 2025.

In a statement Water UK said: “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.”

Water UK added that most visible leaks are being fixed within a day, and almost all within three days. It further explained that where repairs are delayed, this is often “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.”

In terms of performance against leakage targets, the association reported: “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.”

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.”