Gove: Water firms must improve performance on tackling leaks

Environment Secretary orders water companies to ‘raise the bar’ (Philip Toscano/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Water companies have been ordered to “raise the bar” on tackling leaks at a meeting with Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Firms are using satellite technology, drones and underground listening equipment to identify leaks and many firms have doubled the number of teams dedicated to tackling the problems, industry body Water UK said.

They are also planning “ambitious” targets for tackling leaks, Water UK said as Mr Gove said he expected an improvement in performance.

The meeting was called following low levels in some reservoirs and the introduction by North West supplier United Utilities of a hosepipe ban from August 5.

The hot, dry summer has been blamed by the industry for causing some of the problems as the ground dries out and moves, weakening joints and cracking pipes.

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.”

Mr Gove said: “I met the heads of a range water companies today, specifically those where leakage has been an issue.

“While extreme weather events do pose a challenge to the industry, they are a consequence of climate change with which we all have to deal. We all agreed water companies must do more to adapt and prepare for changing weather patterns.

“I have asked the companies I spoke to today to raise the bar on tackling leaks and agree ambitious new targets when they submit their business plans to Ofwat in September.

“The Government, Ofwat and customers expect water companies to improve their performance.”

Water firms present at the meeting were: South Staffordshire (also representing their subsidiary Cambridge water), Bristol, Severn Trent, Thames, Yorkshire, Essex and Suffolk (via their parent company Northumbrian), Portsmouth and United Utilities.