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Water leakage in England and Wales reached more than 1 trillion litres in 2021-22

  • Water leakage in England and Wales reached more than 1 trillion litres in 2021-22

Water firms in England and Wales lost in average more than 2,900 million litres of water every day in the period 2021-22, reports The Guardian, according to provisional data from water sector regulator Ofwat. That amounts to 1.06 trillion litres in one year, the equivalent of 426,875 Olympic swimming pools.

The company with the largest volume of leakage is Thames Water, with 217 billion litres over a year, followed by Severn Trent Water (161 billion litres) and United Utilities (151 billion litres), according to the water industry body Water UK.

Ofwat’s figures show industry wide leakage was reduced by 11% since 2017-18. Because of changes in leakage performance reporting, there are some inconsistencies between current figures and previously published data. The regulator has said that although leakage is at the lowest level since privatisation, performance needs to improve in this regard.

In 2019 the English water companies made a Public Interest Commitment to “triple the rate of sector-wide leakage reduction” by 2030. The water sector has also taken up a National Infrastructure Commission’s challenge, committing to halving leakage from 2018 levels by 2050.

Water companies are increasingly using innovation to address leakage, with intelligent networks where pressure can be optimised, and innovative repair techniques. It is recognised that repairing leaks alone is not enough; a proactive approach is needed to reduce the number of leaks that appear in the first place.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has said that it has proposed targets on water companies to reduce water leakages and is proposing legally binding targets to reduce leaks by over 30% by 2037, while it will “continue to challenge those with the poorest records on leakage to maintain their networks and lower the levels of water needlessly lost”. Meanwhile, reducing leakage further will be more difficult for those utilities that have already made important progress.

This summer England experienced the driest July since 1935, and extreme temperatures have resulted in a record high water demand, up to 30-40% more than the normal levels at this time of year. Several companies have implemented temporary use bans (known as hosepipe bans) in some regions following the unprecedented weather conditions.

As part of the strategy to ensure resilient water supplies in the long term, water companies are also looking at developing new reservoirs; 18 proposals are under consideration including reservoirs and water transfer schemes to deliver water to 10 million people.

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