Water companies in England have published a landmark report which sets out how they plan to significantly reduce leakage by 2050.
The ambitious Leakage Routemap 2050 provides a framework for companies to meet their commitment to triple the rate of leakage reduction by 2030 and halve leakage by 2050. The 2030 target was set out in the 2019 Public Interest Commitment while the 2050 pledge has been endorsed by the National Infrastructure Committee.
The Routemap will be launched at the 22nd Annual Leakage Conference by Peter Simpson, Anglian Water Chief Executive and Bob Taylor, Portsmouth Water Chief Executive. Alongside Stuart Ledger, Affinity Water Chief Executive, the three companies have sponsored the development of the report on behalf of the whole industry.
Leakage is a major priority for the industry and, thanks to major investment, knowledge-sharing and innovation water companies have managed to reduce leakage to the lowest level on record. However, the equivalent of 1,245 Olympic swimming pools is still leaked every day in England and Wales.
The Leakage Routemap contains several actions for water companies to meet their 2030 goal, including:
- Improved quantification of background levels of leakage
- Improved quantification of customer side leakage
- Development of a sector-wide code of practice on how to lay mains pipes without leaks
- Development of a strategy to tackle customer supply pipe leakage
The Routemap also calls on regulators to support the replacement of old leaky pipes. Unless we achieve replacement rates closer to European levels then our goals for 2050 will be much harder to achieve.
The equivalent of 1,245 Olympic swimming pools is still leaked every day in England and Wales
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 the latest technology and innovation to reach every leak, including:
- Anglian Water is combining AI and data science with the latest fixed sensor technologies, including the world’s largest network of permanent noise sensors, to develop a systems approach to leakage prevention and management
- Portsmouth Water have invested heavily in fixed acoustic noise logging. Their fixed network fleet now covers 50% of their entire network (including 90% of metallic pipes) helping to drive leakage down to a company record-low
- 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 trialling artificial intelligence to detect leaks more effectively. The project has shown that the number of false alarms has the potential to be reduced by up to 60% and the system can simultaneously identify more true leaks.
Christine McGourty, Water UK Chief Executive, said: “Water companies are committed to doing everything they can to radically reduce leakage over the coming years and decades.
“Great progress has already been made and companies are increasingly putting innovation and technology at the heart of their efforts. 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 a lower cost.
“Reducing leakage is a huge challenge for the sector and the Leakage Routemap provides a vital blueprint for companies and their supply chain to work together to achieve these ambitious goals.”
Peter Simpson, Anglian Water Chief Executive, said: “As a sector we’ve already reduced leakage to the lowest levels on record. But we need to go even further, and even faster. And in the face of accelerating climate change and rapid population growth, the interventions we will make through the Routemap have never been more needed.
“Halving leakage rates by 2050 will not only help to ward off the impacts of climate change by making our networks less vulnerable to drought. It will support our environmental goals by enabling us to reduce abstraction from our rivers.
“This technically stretching Routemap, heralding unprecedented levels of innovation and collaboration, has a crucial role to play in delivering climate resilience and environmental prosperity.”
Bob Taylor, Portsmouth Water Chief Executive, said: “Significantly reducing leakage is a crucial step in ensuring we have enough water to keep our country’s taps running and rivers flowing, both now and in the future.
“Most customers today are mindful of their own personal water usage, and it is vital that water companies play our part too. The UK water industry has been successful in reducing leakage over the last 30 years, but the challenge is getting harder as leakage levels reduce.
“This Routemap will give all companies a blueprint for ensuring we meet the industry-wide target to triple the rate of leakage reduction by 2030 and halve leakage by 2050. It is a privilege to launch the Routemap today at the Annual National Leakage Conference and I am immensely proud to be part of a sector which puts the environment and its customers at the forefront.”