We are fortunate to be able to turn on the tap and not think about where our water comes from and how much we use. However, in the south east of England, water supplies are being stretched further and further each day. The amount of water per person in the south east is less than in Morocco!
Looking into the future, by 2050, if we keep using water as we are today, we will need an extra 250 million litres of water a day to match the demand. Yet the amount we receive as rainfall will likely remain the same, or even reduce: climate change will change rainfall patterns and we may have drier summers and wetter winters, making it hard to manage our water supplies. On top of this, the amount of water used per person in the south east is higher than other places in the UK, and population growth in the south east is projected to keep on rising.
However, if we are all more aware of how precious water is, and reduce our use where we can, this will mean less is abstracted from the environment, and we are more resilient to drought. It also pushes back in time when we may need to develop new infrastructure such as reservoirs and desalination plants. As a lot of energy and chemicals are involved in creating tap water, saving water also means less energy and chemical that are used, and fewer greenhouse gas emission released.
Defra’s 25 year environment plan has a goal of increasing water efficiency. It aims to work with the water industry and customers to develop personal consumption targets. We think this is very important: if we are all water wise we can help reduce how much is abstracted from the environment, which means more water in rivers, wetlands and underground aquifers.
Here are our top tips for saving water:
- Take shorter showers – we recommend four minutes.
On average, a shower uses 10 litres (that’s 17-18 pints) of water a minute. If a family of four reduced their shower time by just one minute, they could save £45 on metered water bills, up to £52 on energy bills and as much as 11,648 litres of water a year!
- Fix leaks and drips
A single leaky loo can waste up to 400 litres of water a day – the equivalent of five full bathtubs – costing up to £300 a year for metered customers. A dripping tap can also waste more than 60 litres of water a week. That’s the same as 39 bath tubs or water a year.
- Order free water saving devices
The WRSE member water companies all offer free gadgets and devices you can use to help reduce your water use, without even noticing or changing your lifestyle; some also offer home visits. Why not contact your provider now and start saving water as soon as you can! Saving water also normally means saving energy: energy bills are lower as you are using less hot water. If you have a water meter you save on your water bills too.
What is leakage? Leakage refers to the loss of water, treated to drinking water standard, from the water companies’ mains distribution network and also customer supply pipes. Around 25-30% or of the water lost in leakage escapes from customers’ supply pipes and fittings.
Leaks in mains pipes can be caused by the following:
- Ground movements, caused by temperature changes (such as frosts), subsidence or prolonged dry spells can put strains on underground water pipes. This pressure can make the pipes deteriorate and cause them to leak.
- Unexpected pressure surges in the mains network which can also lead to bursts. These may be caused by high commercial water use, illegal standpipes, or other industrial misuse.
- Old pipes, such as metal (e.g. cast iron) wear out over time and deteriorate. Modern pipes tend to be made from plastic which is more flexible.
- Some leaks in water pipes are caused by the weight of traffic on roads.
Leaks in customer supply pipes can be caused by:
- Poorly fitted connections and appliances
- Old fittings and connections wearing out
- ground movement or subsidence causing pipes to shift position and break
What do water companies need to do?
Water companies own and maintain the water mains which carry water to homes and businesses. Ofwat sets targets for each water company to fix leaks from these pipes. Companies must fix leaks, as long as the cost of doing so is less than the cost of not fixing the leak. The cost of not fixing a leak includes environmental damage and the cost of developing new water resources to compensate for the water lost through leaks. This approach is called the sustainable economic level of leakage. It’s aim is to ensure consumers get the best value for money.
As fixing leaks can be very expensive, it means that progress towards reducing leaks may not be as high as some people want to see.
Repairing leaks from customers’ pipes
Each customer is linked to the water main by a “service pipe.” Many people do not realise that if the leak is happening from supply pipe or within their home, they may be are responsible for fixing it. Around 25-30% of the water lost in leakage escapes from customers’ pipes and fittings. Leaking toilets are often the culprits without the householder knowing it’s happening. Click here to see if you have a leaky loo!
Finding out if you have a leak from your supply pipe is less clear. Supply pipe locations can be complex: they may run under outbuildings, under the property to the back, over third-party land before reaching your property or it may be shared with neighbours. Click here to read an explanation of where supply pipes leaks can happen and if it is your responsibility to fix it.