Water companies in England and Wales misplaced 1tn litres through leaky pipes in 2021

Water firms in England and Wales misplaced greater than 1tn litres through leaky pipes final 12 months, based on the sector’s newest figures.

The trade and its monetary regulator, Ofwat, say the water firms misplaced a median of two,923.8m litres of water a day in 2021-22, equating to 1.06tn litres over the 12 months, though Ofwat mentioned the figures remained provisional till it has accomplished validation checks.

The determine quantities to the equal of 426,875 Olympic swimming swimming pools or greater than three and a half Lake Windermeres.

Thames Water leaked the biggest volumes, based on the trade physique Water UK, dropping 217bn litres of water over the 12 months – this week, the corporate introduced it will introduce a hosepipe ban from 24 August, affecting 15 million prospects.

Severn Trent Water adopted shut behind with 161bn litres leaked over the 12 months, United Utilities with 151bn litres leaked, Yorkshire Water with 103bn litres and Northumbrian Water with 69bn litres misplaced.

Water UK’s information, shared with the Guardian, exhibits whole leakage has fallen barely over the previous 5 years, down from 1.2tn litres a 12 months in 2017-18, and these figures are corroborated by Ofwat.

Nonetheless, the volumes leaked by every water firm, based on Water UK, don’t tally with these beforehand printed by Ofwat in its annual service supply reviews. The regulator says it’s because it launched a brand new reporting methodology and that it has needed to recalculate previous leakage volumes to convey them in step with it.

Ofwat mentioned it “up to date leakage efficiency reporting for consistency, requiring all firms to report a three-year common” and that earlier than the sector’s PR19 (2019-24) five-year enterprise interval, “firms have been capable of report efficiency in numerous phrases – for instance some used annual figures and others used three-year averages or averages over an extended interval”.

Feargal Sharkey, the musician and vice-president of the charity WildFish, mentioned the modifications advised the earlier leakage figures have been “principally bollocks” as firms might select current the figures, and confirmed “Ofwat has been taken hostage by the water trade and is struggling a foul case of Stockholm syndrome”.

“Individuals will now not settle for this type of propaganda and Ofwat, with all its incompetence and failings, wants to begin behaving like a regulator,” he added.

As with sewage air pollution discharges, the sector reviews its leakage volumes to the regulator after having them verified by exterior consultants contracted by the water firms.

Every firm assesses leakage utilizing Ofwat’s methodology, a top-down strategy based mostly on a water stability and a bottom-up calculation that appears at minimal night time flows in discrete metered areas. The 2 assessments are then reconciled utilizing a “most probability estimate” statistical methodology, however given the complexity of the methods some uncertainty across the figures stays.

Ofwat says the provisional and unverified 2021-22 leakage volumes are on the “lowest stage since privatisation” however efficiency remains to be not adequate and that it’s going to preserve pushing the water firms.

“Over the past 20 years we’ve imposed fines, penalties and secured spending commitments totalling over £339m particularly for failure on leakage,” an Ofwat spokesperson mentioned.

“This cash has been used to enhance efficiency, and the place acceptable, cash has been returned to prospects on the expense of shareholders. Corporations’ efficiency on leakage has been bettering lately however it’s nonetheless not adequate … The place they fail, we’ll act to carry them to account.”

A Water UK spokesperson mentioned water firms have been dedicated to “radically decreasing leakage, constructing on current bulletins of the bottom ever on document with additional steep reductions deliberate annually.

“Corporations have more and more been placing innovation and know-how on the coronary heart of those efforts. Clever networks, good sensors, satellite tv for pc know-how and drones are all a part of the armoury that’s being deployed to detect and repair leaks quicker than ever.”

The spokesperson mentioned funding was wanted to extend storage. “Now we have proposed and are progressing £14bn of latest funding to ship 18 tasks that embody reservoirs and intensive schemes to maneuver water across the nation, sufficient to produce 10 million individuals.”

Defra mentioned it had “already proposed powerful short- and long-term targets on water firms to scale back water leakages and are proposing legally binding targets to scale back leaks by over 30% by 2037.

“The federal government will proceed to problem these with the poorest data on leakage to take care of their networks and decrease the degrees of water needlessly misplaced. If we don’t see the modifications we count on, we gained’t hesitate to take additional motion.”

In the meantime, swathes of England have been formally deemed as being in drought, together with Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall, the Solent and South Downs, Kent and south London (together with East Sussex), Herts and north London, East Anglia, Thames, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and the east Midlands.

Because of this, hundreds of thousands of individuals are banned from utilizing hosepipes, and a few water companies have been granted drought orders that enable them to take extra water from rivers and groundwater, doubtlessly on the detriment of the setting as a result of many rivers have already got low flows.

The water sector has acquired widespread criticism over its preparedness for drought, its poor air pollution efficiency and the massive sums of cash being paid to administrators and shareholders, prompting some, together with the Labour celebration, to name for its renationalisation.

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