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Leakage down to lowest levels since records began

By Chris Potter

Leakage down to lowest levels since records began

The overall volume of water being leaked has fallen by 216 million litres per day to 2,954 million litres.

Reducing leakage presents a significant technological challenge, and with 346,455 kilometres of water pipes, enough to go around the world eight and a half times, water companies are adopting some of this latest technology and innovation to reach every leak.

Despite an improvement in leakage overall, Water UK warns there is still more work to do to meet industry-wide targets to reduce it by 16% by 2025, with a further reduction to half the current levels of leakage by 2050.

As part of the sector’s Public Interest Commitments (PIC) set in 2019, water companies have pledged to triple the rate of leakage reduction by 2030 enabling action to be taken faster. Through the Leakage PIC the industry will look to foster collaboration, enable innovative approaches to be proved and taken up faster and develop skills and competencies in all areas of leakage detection, location and repair.

Commenting on today’s leakage figures, Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty said: “Enormous progress has been made in tackling leaky pipes, and that’s brought leakage levels down significantly in the last year.

“But the water industry is committed to doing much more, and companies are putting innovation and technology at the heart of a commitment to radically reduce leakage over the long-term. Intelligent networks, smart sensors, satellite technology and drones are all part of the armoury that’s being deployed to detect and fix leaks faster than ever and at lower cost.”

Emma Clancy, chief executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “After a decade of complacency the water industry finally appears to be showing the level of urgency we’ve been demanding on leakage.

“Water companies must step up the pace of improvement and help consumers understand the vital importance of saving water if we’re to overcome the growing pressures on our water supplies and the environment we take it from.”

Ofwat said it welcomes the progress water companies are reporting on leakage. “Through our price review, we have challenged the sector to reduce leakage by 16% – saving enough water to meet the needs of everyone in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield by 2024-25, so that we can all enjoy resilient water supplies while ensuring the environment is protected,” said a spokesperson.

“We’re encouraged to see companies beginning to share information about best practice in finding and fixing leaks and taking advantage of new opportunities provided by data analytics and new technology.  We hope they will do all they can to exceed the targets that have been set to 2025.  This is only a stepping stone towards halving leakage by 2050.”

This improved picture on leakage is part of a general update to the Discover Water website which also revealed that:

  • Water quality continues to be maintained at a high standard, passing 99.96% of quality tests;

  • Supply interruptions are down from an average of 13 minutes in 2018/19 to an average of 12 minutes in 2019/20;

  • The amount of water used per person in England and Wales has fallen slightly, from 143 litres to 142 litres per day;

  • Sewer flooding increased by 14%; while some companies saw a reduction, other parts of the country were more affected by extreme weather in the last year, including storms Ciara and Denis.