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UK water leak prevention hasn’t improved in four years, as drought fears loom

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The amount of water lost though pipe leaks by UK water companies has not fallen in four years, according to an article by the Guardian.

As fears of a drought rise in the UK following a particularly dry few months, the Guardian analysis observes that many companies in the particularly dry south and east of England have been set leak reduction targets of zero, or even targets that would actually allow the amount of leakages to increase. Some observers have criticised a system which they claim makes it “cheaper to drain a river dry than fix a leak”. They point out that customers are paying the price for a system where 20% of water is lost to leaks before it can reach an end-user.

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has labelled the UK’s lack of rain between October 2016 and April 2017 as “particularly acute”. Some water utilities have already started to ask customers to save water by, for instance, ensuring washing machines and dishwashers are fully loaded.

Data from Ofwat, the regulatory body for the water industry, shows that more than 3 billion litres of water is lost to leaks every day, a level which has remained unchanged for at least four years. Since the turn of the century, the amount has only fallen by 7%. Many companies have seen no significant reduction while Essex and Suffolk Water has actually seen a 15% increase in water leaks, according to the Ofwat figures.

Rose O’Neill, water policy manager at WWF, told the Guardian: “Customers routinely tell companies [reducing leaks] is their top priority, yet a third of all water that is taken from the natural environment is still wasted, through leaky pipes, inefficient processes, and waste in the home.”