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Discover Water update with 2018/19 figures

  • Big increase in water companies meeting leakage targets
  • High quality of drinking water maintained
  • Greenhouse gas emissions reduced significantly
  • Supply interruptions down

There is an improved picture on leakage from water pipes compared to last year, with a sharp increase in the number of water companies meeting or beating their targets, according to new figures revealed today on the Discover Water website.

Updates on the website, which hosts the official figures for the water industry in England and Wales, also show that water quality has been maintained at a high standard, passing 99.95% of quality tests; supply interruptions have reduced sharply from 2017/18, down by an average of 36%; and water companies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions from their operations by a significant degree – down more than 15%. It’s also been revealed that the amount of water used per person in England and Wales has risen slightly, from 141 litres to 143 litres per day.

In total, 15 out of 18 companies in England and Wales met or beat their annual regulatory leakage targets in 2018/19, compared to 7 out of 18 companies for 2017/18. The overall volume of water being leaked is down by 10 million litres per day.

The companies who met or beat their targets for 2018/19 are; Anglian Water, Bristol Water, Cambridge Water, Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water, Essex & Suffolk Water, Northumbrian Water, Portsmouth Water, SES Water, Severn Trent Water, South East Water, South Staffs Water, South West Water, United Utilities, Wessex Water, and Yorkshire Water.

Even though there has been an improvement in leakage overall there is still more work to do meet industry-wide proposals to reduce it by 16% by 2025, with a further reduction to half the current levels of leakage by 2050.

Commenting on the figures, Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said:

“Thanks to the extra effort and investment made by companies in the face of some challenging weather conditions, there has been substantial recovery from the leakage position last summer when we saw an unusually high level of pipe bursts. Water companies spent millions of pounds extra in the last year identifying more leaks and fixing them more quickly.

“But although the overall picture on leakage has improved compared with last year, we are still determined to do better as an industry, and it remains one of our highest priorities. Leakage is down by a third since the mid-90s, but we intend to go even further which is why we’re now putting in place the most ambitious leakage programme for 20 years.”

The water industry’s determination to reduce leakage can be seen in its inclusion as one of the five big goals in the recently-published Public Interest Commitment, with the aim of tripling the rate of sector-wide leakage reduction by 2030. This is part of a wider long-term strategy to reduce per capita consumption of water and invest in more water transfer and storage, and the goal represents an unprecedented rate of improvement to help meet the challenges posed to water supplies by climate change and population growth.

Over the past year companies used satellite technology, drones, and underground listening equipment to spot less obvious leaks in the system, such as in the countryside where they might go unnoticed and reported. Many companies rescheduled non-urgent work to focus as much effort as they could on repairing leaks – including leaks in customers’ own pipes, which fall outside companies’ responsibilities.