Ofwat puts four companies on report for leakage failures

Complaints to water companies have fallen by 20% in the past two years according to Ofwat's 2010/11 'Summary of Performance', but, says the regulator, there are still areas for concern.

The annual study looks at 21 water and sewerage companies in the UK. The highlights include the drop in complaints, a high level of customer satisfaction, drinking water quality to rival the best in Europe and a four-year low in the number of incidents of properties where sewers have flooded internally.

However, said Ofwat, there was also cause for disappointment and concern. Six companies failed to meet their leakage targets – Anglian, Dŵr Cymru, Northumbrian – North East operating area, Severn Trent, Southern and Yorkshire.

Southern Water missed its target by the widest margin at 16%, followed by Yorkshire Water at 9%, Anglian Water at 8%, Northumbrian Water – North East and Dŵr Cymru both with 5% and Severn Trent at 3%. Southern Water, Yorkshire Water and Northumbrian Water – North East all missed their targets in 2009/10 as well.

Ofwat did stress that 15 companies had met their leakage targets, reducing leakage by a total of 18ml/d (million litres a day). Putting that in perspective, that’s enough to supply a city the size of Exeter.

However, it said, steps need to be taken to ensure all 21 meet their targets going forward. To this end Yorkshire Water has earmarked approximately £33m for tackling leakage and improving the pipe network, while Southern Water will return £5m to its customers for failing to deliver its leakage reduction targets.

Ofwat has put Anglian, Dŵr Cymru, Northumbrian – North East and Severn Trent on report for their leakage failures.

In addition, said Ofwat, seven companies need to do more to maintain their underground infrastructure – Anglian, United Utilities, Northumbrian, Severn Trent, Southern, Veolia Water Central, Yorkshire.
And, the number of supply interruptions to customers was high, specifically citing Severn Trent saying it had “particular concerns about the performance” of the company in this regard.

Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn said: “Where we have concerns about companies’ performance, we have made sure there are action plans in place to put the problem right, at no extra cost to customers.

“Customers tell us that leakage is an issue that matters to them. They need to have confidence that their company is doing their part to use water wisely. These failures send a poor signal about how companies value water.

“Leakage has reduced by around a third since its mid-90s peak. Most companies stepped up to the challenge of tackling leakage during another very cold winter. Those who didn’t, need to get back on track.”

The regulator has also published the results of its customer service survey – the Service Incentive Mechanism. The survey asked 17,000 customers to rate their provider on a scale of 1-5 (where 5 indicated ‘very satisfied’). The results were close, with customer satisfaction generally high at an average across the country of 4.2.

Veolia Water East came top of the table with an average score of 4.59, while the lowest average score, of 3.79, went to United Utilities.

The full Service Incentive Mechanism results can be downloaded here

The 2010/11 Summary of Performance report is available here

Will Parsons

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