Thames Water misses leak target as drought continues

Thames Water has once again missed official leakage targets, despite growing pressure on water resources in Southern England, the company said on Wednesday.

The announcement coincides with news of a 31% rise in Thames Water’s annual profits, prompting strong criticism from water watchdog Ofwat, which had set the targets.

“We view as very serious Thames Water’s significant failure to achieve its leakage target for 2005-06 by 34 million litres per day.”

“Customers are paying the higher prices that Thames Water has been allowed to charge – an average increase of 24% over 2005-10, excluding inflation – without getting all the benefits that the company has promised to deliver. This is unacceptable.”

“Given its current leakage performance we are concerned that the company may not meet future leakage targets or its security of supply commitments,” the regulator said in a statement.

Despite some improvement since last year, the company announced on Wednesday that it still loses 896 million litres of water through leaks each day.

Reducing leakage is all the more urgent given the current drought in the company’s supply area, Ofwat said:

“Although the current drought is the result of below average rainfall for two consecutive winters, we expect Thames Water to set a good example by controlling its leakage.

“The company’s poor leakage performance is not only inefficient, it is also contributing to water shortages that have led Thames Water to impose a hosepipe ban and seek a drought order,” Ofwat said.

Thames water recently imposed a hosepipe ban, and has also applied for a drought order. A massive desalination plant is also part of its response to the water shortages – a plan vehemently opposed by London Mayor Ken Livingstone who says the company should fix leaks instead.

The Mayor said: ‘If Thames Water concentrated on sorting out its own leaks there would be no need to build an energy guzzling desalination plant, which would pump out harmful emissions.

“It is astonishing that Thames Water has failed to meet its targets for dealing with leaks whilst claiming that it needs to build an expensive and environmentally damaging desalination plant to supply water.”

London’s aging pipes, a third of which are over 150 years old, are the worst for leakage across the supply area covered by Thames Water, which is the UK’s biggest water company and serves 8m customers.

Thames Water’s chief operating officer Jerry England said: “Tackling leakage in the capital really is a different ball game to the rest of the country. Our repeated success in meeting our target outside the capital proves this.”

The company plans to invest £1bn on cutting leakage over the next five years, he said.

Ofwat said it will examine the company’s annual return and an assessment from an independent reporter before it decides on regulatory action.

Goska Romanowicz

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