Water UK pledges to halve leaks by 2050 but wants policy support to cut demand

The water industry has told environment secretary, Michael Gove, that it is aiming to cut leakage by 50% by 2050, in line with the recommendation of the National Infrastructure Commission and ahead of the government’s anticipated response to the NIC needs assessment for the sector.

In a letter, Water UK chair, Sir Brian Bender, said the ambition was to reduce losses to around 10%. He said this amounted to a “significant departure” from the regulatory sustainable economic level of leakage approach, and was driven by customer sentiment.

Sir Brian (pictured) also pointed out that leakage ambition must be set within the context of wider demand management. The letter said companies were taking part in work to develop a national per capita consumption target, and called for “a trajectory for action over time and between regions, based on a shared analysis of what can be done most cost effectively,” as well as a straightforward long term goal.

The trade body also offered to lead work, jointly with DEFRA, on “assessing the potential positive contribution to be made by public policy” on demand management, including in Building Regulations, water efficiency labelling, metering and customer owned supply pipes.

Finally, on the supply side, Sir Brian said the industry was “fully supporting the National Framework activity to build on previous modelling work which will help improve strategic, multi-sector planning for water resource resilience in England.”

The day the letter was published (18 October), Gove took oral questions in Parliament on water company performance including on finance, flood defence, public drinking water fountains, pollution, leakage and resilience.