NI Water lost enough water to fill 63 Olympic sized swimming pools each day in year through leaks

Figures for the 2021/22 financial year have not yet been published

By Adam Morton, Local Democracy reporter

Northern Ireland's sole provider of water and sewerage services lost more than enough water to fill 63 Olympic sized swimming pools each day in 2020/21 it has been revealed.

With figures for the 2021/22 financial year not yet published, NI Water confirmed it lost 157.71million litres of water a day across Northern Ireland in 2020/21 as a result of leakage from its network.

It takes 2.5 million litres of water to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool.

In total, NI Water spends £1.5m a month on capital maintenance, renewing and replacing its 27,000kilometre below ground network and £900,000 on operation costs for essential maintenance.

According to NI Water's integrated annual report and accounts for 2020/21 its target for the volume of water lost per day in 2020/21 was 153m litres of water per day. Losing 157.71m litres per day means it did not hit this target.

It's target for the 2021/22 year was 155m litres of water a day lost to leaks and it remains to be seen if it has hit this target.

The leakage is caused by a combination of factors, including natural wear and tear to the infrastructure, damage from severe weather, leakage on a customer supply pipe, illegal usage or unknown usage.

NI Water has also set itself a target of achieving the "sustainable economic level leakage" of 150 million litres of water per day by 2027. This is the point at which the cost of fixing a leak outweighs the benefits of the repair.

Commenting on how it decides which parts of the networks are repaired and when, a spokesperson for NI Water said it uses principles of "risk, consequence and complex deterioration curves, in order to prioritise our investment across Northern Ireland".

"This is based on best practice knowledge from across the UK industry," said the spokesperson.

"The lifespan of pipes is influenced by many factors not simply limited to the material and the diameter but also the soil and ground conditions in the environment within which the pipe is located."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.