Water companies record lowest ever leakage levels from pipes

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WATER companies have reduced the amount of water leaked from pipes by 7% to the lowest level since records began in the mid-1990s.

This improved picture on leakage is part of a general update to the Discover Water website which also reveals that:

  • Water quality continues to be maintained at a high standard, passing 99.96% of quality tests;
  • Supply interruptions are down from an average of 13 minutes in 2018/19 to an average of 12 minutes in 2019/20;
  • The amount of water used per person in England and Wales has fallen slightly, from 143 litres to 142 litres per day;
  • Sewer flooding increased by 14%; while some companies saw a reduction, other parts of the country were more affected by extreme weather in the last year, including storms Ciara and Denis.

The overall volume of water being leaked has fallen by 216 million litres per day, enough to fill 86 Olympic size swimming pools, to 2,954 million litres.

Reducing leakage presents a significant technological challenge, and with 346,455 kilometres of water pipes, enough to go around the world eight and a half times, water companies are adopting some of this latest technology and innovation to reach every leak, including:

  • Affinity achieved a 15% reduction in leakage through using state of the art technology, data capture and analysis and new innovative methods to find and fix leaks, whilst collaborating with other water companies to share best practice
  • Anglian Water are using thermal imaging drones to detect leaks to find and pinpoint leaks
  • SES Water has partnered with Vodafone to create an intelligent water-distribution network to help them detect and fix leaks
  • Northumbrian Water are using satellite technology to help detect leaks in their Suffolk and Essex region
  • Yorkshire Water are piloting the UK’s largest smart water network

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

As part of the sector’s Public Interest Commitments (PIC) set in 2019, water companies have pledged to triple the rate of leakage reduction by 2030 enabling action to be taken faster.

Through the Leakage PIC the industry will look to ‘foster collaboration, enable innovative approaches to be proved and taken up faster and develop skills and competencies in all areas of leakage detection, location and repair.’

Commenting on the leakage figures, 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.”