“There has been an average decrease in water leakage of almost 35% in England and Wales because of the targets introduced in 1994,” a spokesperson for the water regulator told edie on 13 October. “Furthermore, we expect leakage to fall by a further 9% by March 2002 in line with our latest targets set out on the report”, she said.

The report, Leakage and the efficient use of water 1999-2000 states that the new targets should see leakage reduced to just over 3,000 megalitres (one megalitre = one million litres) per day (Ml/d), which will represent a reduction of more than 2,000 Ml/d from the levels of 1994-95. This reduction in wasted water is enough to meet the daily needs of more than 13 million people, Ofwat says.

“We would like to particularly praise Southwest, Southern, Bristol, Cambridge and North Surrey water companies, who all got to below the economic level of leakage”, the spokesperson said. “This means that it would now cost their customers more to repair remaining leaks than to leave them. Some are in a situation where their new targets may be higher than the leakage levels they have reached.”

Dee Valley and Thames were the only companies failing to meet their targets, and in Dee Valley’s case it was a close call. Thames had failed to accurately assess its true leakage levels, the spokesperson said.

The report also details how companies are continuing to promote the efficient use of water by their customers, through the provision of information and water saving devices. New leak detection technology has also played a major role. Particularly effective methods are believed to be ‘Sahara’, a monitor sent through pipes on a parachute, ‘Permalog’, a sonar leak-divining device, thermal surveys and submarine radar.

Ofwat says that companies must strike a balance between the costs of reducing leakage and the full value of the water saved. Until this year Ofwat has set all companies mandatory targets to guide them to achieve this, but from now on, Ofwat has decided that companies showing consistent progress towards robust economic levels of leakage can be monitored against company targets.

“I am pleased that we can withdraw the sanction of mandatory leakage targets from 16 companies this year”, commented Dr Bill Emery, Ofwat’s Director of Costs and Performance. “However, we will be watching closely and will not hesitate to step in if necessary.”

Ofwat has also published a further report Patterns of demand for water in England and Wales 1989 – 1999, which shows that the amount of water needed to supply customers has fallen by almost 10% since 1994. This has been achieved by the reduction in leakage levels, an increase in household metering and the promotion of water efficiency. As a result, companies should be better placed to cope with extreme hot, dry summer periods.

Copies of both reports are available free of charge by calling Ofwat on 0121 625 1373 , or by e-mailing [email protected]

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