A challenging story in the Guardian today claims water companies are not doing enough to tackle leakage – but what is the real story in our region?
The newspaper’s Damian Carrington is taking the industry to task on this important issue and we welcome the scrutiny – but his piece doesn’t reflect the huge efforts being made in the East of England to wage a war on leakage.
We have met regulatory leakage targets for many years – does that mean we are going to kick back and put our feet up? Our hundreds of skilled leakage technicians out in our region every day would certainly disagree. From the teams of data analysts and technicians listening to pipes for the tell tale sound of water escaping to our Intensive Leakage Teams who operate in the dead of night using the latest cutting edge technology – we take leakage very seriously.
In fact we’re a bit obsessed with it. We want to be the best at finding and fixing leaks. We could take you through reams of water usage graphs, network maps and data tables that our staff pour through on a daily basis on the detective hunt for the latest leak (seriously, we love this stuff), but we’ll keep it simple.
Since privatisation Anglian Water has reduced leaks by 38% – that’s despite a 33% increase in the population we serve. Last year our leakage and repair teams helped us save enough water to fill 10 Olympic swimming pools every day.
So how do we do this? Our 300-strong leakage team work day and night using every technology at their disposal, including thermal imaging drones and specialist robots. If you want to see our leakage detectives in action watch the video at the bottom of this blog – the technicians in this video spend every minute of every day honing in on the lengths of main where we know we are losing water, diverting pipes, measuring flow down to the millilitre and pinpointing the exact location where we need to start digging to fix the hole – or if the main is past its prime, replace the pipe.
We may have met our regulator’s targets, but we also have our own targets – and they are even more ambitious. And they are long term – we supply millions of litres a day along thousands of miles of mains, it is going to take decades to bring the total leakage levels right down – but that’s what we intend to do.
Can we do more? Yes, of course we can always be better. Some of this requires us to use new, emerging technology, but some of it requires more investment. Is it time the water industry started to ask bill payers if they are willing to pay more so that we can do more? Our customers agreed when we asked them in 2012, and we think this is an important debate. We hope Ofwat, the media, politicians and customers nationwide will all get involved.