CCW reports leakage up, sewer flooding down and calls for all-weather resilience

The Consumer Council for Water urged water companies to bolster their resilience to climate change and population growth when it published a report last week into industry performance in 2017/18 in key service areas related to resilience. This showed a mixed bag of performance across the relevant service areas, much of which was affected by the weather.

Performance deteriorated in the following areas:

Leakage

The amount of water lost through leakage rose by 1.5%, the second year running there has been an increase. Nine companies failed to meet their leakage targets for the year.

In the report, Water, water everywhere? CC Water said: “Leakage badly affects the reputation of the water companies. It can also impact consumers’ willingness to save water and undermines efforts to encourage consumers to value their water supply and services. At a time when we are trying to reduce the impact that water abstraction has on the environment, by reducing overall water demand, leakage reduction becomes an even greater priority.

"We continue to question whether companies are doing enough to reduce leakage. Whilst companies have been challenged to reduce leakage by 15% by 2025, we want to see more ambition from companies with them beginning to meet this challenge in the current price review period. We question why most appear to be waiting until 2020 to start to make the changes in this area that consumers expect to see.” It also called for ambition beyond the regulatory mandated minimum cut in PR19.

Water use

Average water consumption increased by 0.23% to 141 litres per person per day, a total rise of 1.14% over the past two years. The watchdog said this “could suggest that consumers are either not seeing water efficiency advice and campaigns or companies are not communicating water saving messages or engaging with their consumers in the right way. Metering is seen to be a way to help drive down daily water use, but water use for metered consumers is also on the rise. Water companies need to consider whether metering is having the required impact, and what further engagement with consumers might be necessary to change attitudes and behaviours.”

Supply interruptions

The average amount of time customers were without water more than doubled from 10 minutes 45 seconds in 2016-17 to 22 minutes in 2017-18. This was largely attributed to the March 2018 freeze/thaw.

Serious pollution incidents

Category 1 and 2 pollution incidents rose. The report pointed out: “This could really put the reputation of the water industry at risk. Companies need to work together with the Environment Agency to lessen their impact on the environment caused by pollution incidents.”

Performance was improved or maintained regarding:

Sewer flooding – Internal sewer flooding reduced by 36%, contributing to an overall five-year reduction of 26%. External sewer flooding reduced by 19% – 36% over five years. CC Water said this year’s decrease “is due largely to drier weather, and while this is good news for customers, this downward trend needs to continue, with water companies planning effectively to mitigate the risk of all kinds of sewer flooding, regardless of the weather conditions”.

Drinking water quality – Compliance with the EU Drinking Water Directive was 99.96%. The watchdog said: “This is a positive figure, and remains much the same since 2004. It showcases that water quality for consumers is high and that companies are performing well.”

Pollution

There was an overall decrease in the number of pollution incidents caused by water companies.