We're on a mission...
We’ve halved leakage levels in our region and we're one of the industry leaders, but there’s more work to do.
We’ve got big plans for the next five years. We’re on mission to achieve a further 15% minimum reduction in leakage by 2025. This is a challenging target and we’ll be investing over £50 million to help us achieve it. Recruiting more people, investing in technology and working with our supply chain partnerships are key to our leakage reduction strategy.
What are we doing to tackle leakage?
We’ve halved leakage levels in our region, but we know there’s more work to do. We'll be investing over £50 million in the next five years to help us achieve a minimum 15% reduction in leakage by 2025.
In the last two years we’ve doubled the number of leak detection staff and significantly increased the number of Customer Leakage Technicians. We’re building a state-of-the-art training facility for our team and we’ve also formed a new team, dedicated to looking at how we’ll achieve the 15% minimum reduction target.
As well as investing in our people and supply chain, we’ve made significant investment in technology. We’re using remote sensing technology. These are acoustic logging devices which are placed on the network and listen for leaks 24/7. We’re also trialling remote video link applications with customers which is helping us diagnose and resolve issues.
An exciting part of our mission to find and fix leaks quicker than before is our work with the University of Exeter through the Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW). We have invested £10 million in CREWW and we’ll be working in partnership with the university to explore remote sensing innovations, in-pipe repair technologies and augmented reality programmes.
Working in partnership is key to helping us tackle leakage. We have a detection contract with RPS and Kier were awarded our Network Service Alliance contract. Working with our supply chain partners means we can find and fix leaks 24/7; we have more people out looking for leaks, access to the latest technology and equipment, as well as benefiting from a wealth of expert knowledge within the industry.
What happens when a customer reports a leak?
From the moment you report a leak there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.
We've been listening to your feedback when you see a leak you've reported not being repaired straight away. We've created this section to help explain what happens when a leak is reported and why sometimes it can take longer than normal for us to carry out repairs
1) Your report will be passed on to our leakage team
If you report a leak over the phone, on our website, or message us on social media, we'll try to gather as much information as possible about the seriousness of the leak so we can prioritise it and pass the information on to our leakage team.
Leaks are classified using a number of criteria – the severity of the leak, the impact on the surrounding environment or damage they cause to roads, pavements and properties.
2) Our leakage team will come and investigate the leak
We'll visit the site to investigate what type of leak it is, where it's coming from and the priority of repair needed for the level of traffic and impact to customers.
You might see us with listening devices. Water moves around and it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where the leak is coming from. Once we've found the leak, we'll mark the area so our repair team know where they need to dig to fix the pipe.
3) Making a plan for repairs
We’ll assess the impacts to customers. If the pipe serves hundreds, or thousands, of customers we'll need to create a plan which minimises interruption when we turn off the water to carry out repairs. This might mean we need to use water from another part of our pipe network and tanker in the area. Tankering is when we use our Alternative Water Supplies vehicles and pump water into the system to keep the network flowing whilst we carry out repairs.
We often need to work with the local Highway Authorities who have to grant us permission to work on the road, and we'll need to balance the urgency of our work with the impact on others who use the road. Non-urgent jobs may need to be planned over a longer window to ensure minimum disruption. Often roads have embargoes on them, for example we aren’t allowed on the Tour of Britain cycle route for some months prior to the event, unless there's an emergency. This is also often the case for traffic sensitive routes during peak periods. We of course have to ensure the safety of the team who'll carry out the repair work, which means we have to plan for road closures or put significant traffic management measures in place. This again takes time and requires the agreement from the Highway Authority.
4) Fixing the leak
We'll send our team of engineers who'll need to turn the water off and will start digging up the road or pavement to carry out the repair to the pipe. Once the repair is completed, we will turn the water back on, fill in the hole and permanently repair the road or pavement. Sometimes it can take a few days to ensure we put things back, and any repairs to the road surface may take longer as we need to liaise with local authorities.
Why do leaks happen?
Whilst we’re working around the clock, 365 days a year, to reduce leakage and fix pipes as quickly as possible it’s important to note that leaks do, and will, occur.
Leaks can occur at any time, and there are a few reasons why. We have over 9,000 miles of pipework laid underground, ground movement can put a strain on our pipework. The colder months in winter can mean our metal pipework shrinks which in turn causes leaks. Severe weather such as freezing temperatures, followed by thaws, cause freezing of water in our pipes and ground movement which results in increased leakage on our network. Equally, prolonged dry weather can cause the earth to shrink. Extreme demands on our system can also put a strain on our pipes - there's only so much water can pump through the network.
To minimise disruption and keep taps flowing for customers we've recently invested c.£3million to help us keep customers in water even if there’s a burst or we’re making a repair. This includes a new fleet of tankers and 18 new technicians, meaning we can act more rapidly and plan repairs without needing to affect supplies to customers.