Leakage targets are realistic because costs are falling, says UK water regulator

UK water companies have been told that a further reduction in the amount of water lost through leakage is compulsory. New Ofwat targets mean the volume of water escaping networks accidentally will have to be cut by 6% for 2000-1.

Although major cuts in leakage have already been achieved – in 1994-5 companies reported 5,112 Ml/d lost, while current levels of loss have reduced this by 31% – further reductions are required by the regulator. In concert with the Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions, Ofwat is studying the impact of new technology on leak fixing costs and predicts these will continue to fall.

According to an Ofwat spokesman: “Reductions are huge, but there is still a long way to go.” Water company reaction to the new targets, and the prospect of future reductions, was varied. Severn and Trent did not foresee any problems meeting the 6% cut because the figure is an existing part of the company’s business plan. But confidence was tempered with concern that the threshold of economic leakage was being reached. “We have come so far already in reducing leakage, that it is getting difficult to do more,” a company spokesman commented.

Thames Water, in contrast, felt the 6% reduction presented a major problem in itself. A spokesman said the company was: “seriously concerned that the recent price review does not allow sufficient funding to make further cuts viable.” The spokesman went on to say that future cuts were deemed as: “neither practical nor economic.” Southeast Water said it was not in a position to discuss the new targets because it was still busy trying to clarify its 1998-9 leakage figures with Ofwat.

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