Water companies in the United Kingdom recorded their lowest leakage levels since records began in the mid-1990s with the amount of water lost in 2019-20 down 7% on the previous year’s total.
2,954 million litres were lost per day, a drop of 216 million on 2018-19. The news comes at a good time for the water industry, which has come in for heavy criticism in recent weeks.
A report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee warned that Britain could run out of drinking water by 2040 if more is not done to protect resources and cut leaks.
According to the report, the industry regulator Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have “taken their eye off the ball” when it comes to reducing water loss and repairing leaks with “two decades of inaction” responsible for the impending crisis.
The Public Accounts Committee said it remained unconvinced that enough would be done to address the situation. These leak reduction figures provide a welcome riposte to the damning report.
The United Kingdom has over 346,455km of water pipes running across the country, enough to go around the world eight-and-a-half times. Identifying and carrying out emergency pipe repair on such a vast system comes with its own challenges which water companies are meeting through innovation.
Writing on their website, Water UK highlighted Affinity Water’s use of state of the art technology and innovative pipe repair solutions to reduce leaks by 15% on their network; Anglian Water’s use of thermal imaging drones to detect leaks; Northumbrian Water’s adoption of satellite technology and the integration of smart pipes by SES Water and Yorkshire Water.
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.”
There remains plenty of work for water companies in the United Kingdom to do on leakage. Ofwat set a target of reducing water loss through leaks by 16% before 2025 in their five-yearly report into the industry released at the start of the year.
Such a saving would provide enough water to meet the needs of every person in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield.
Even further reductions are expected over the next 30 years, with water companies told that leakage numbers must be half of their 2020 levels by 2050.
The good news about water loss reduction came as part of a broader report into the water industry published on the Discover Water website.
Also revealed in the report was that 99.96% of the UK’s water passed quality tests to the highest standards, supply interruptions now only last an average of 12 minutes and the amount of water used per person has fallen slightly from 143 litres to 142 litres per day.