Drought

Your water company has a role to play in tackling issues such as the increase in demand for water and climate change. Each water company is required to prepare a 25-year plan for managing water supplies. These plans explain how your water company will meet the demand for water over the long-term to take account of things like:

  • increases in the population
  • new housing
  • changing weather patterns due to climate change

What does my water company do to make sure that I have enough water?

We expect your water company to make sure it has sufficient water supplies to meet the needs of all of its consumers. Your water company must manage its water resources so that this happens.

All of the water companies must plan for the long term, looking ahead 25 years. These Water Resource Management Plans are approved either by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or by Welsh Ministers. They have to show how the water companies will:

  • make sure that sufficient water supplies are maintained
  • address leakage issues
  • encourage customers to use water wisely

Climate change and population growth mean that our water supplies will become even more stretched in the future. This means if we are to meet the significant challenges of the future, we will need to start to do things differently.

Find out about our thinking and how we can meet future water resource challenges.

Why do water companies sometimes have to restrict water supplies?

We expect all of the water companies to plan on the basis that they may occasionally need to impose restrictions on water supplies, such as hosepipe bans. This usually happens during long periods of continuous dry weather or drought.

It would be very expensive for the water companies, to allow unlimited access to water all of the time. Allowing unlimited water use during long periods of very dry weather would also be damaging to the environment. Research from the Consumer Council for Water shows that a majority of customers are not willing to pay more to avoid restrictions, and would not want extra water to be taken from a water company’s resources to the extent that it could harm the natural environment.

If there are serious shortages in a water company’s area because of very low rainfall, the company may need to introduce restrictions as a precaution. This is so that the water company can make sure that its customers always have enough water for drinking, cooking and washing.

Water supply restrictions on non-essential use such as hosepipe bans do not necessarily mean that a company is failing its customers. They are used as part of drought plans to make sure that essential supplies are protected during exceptional circumstances.

Why don’t companies address leakage instead?

The water companies manage a network of 335,000 km of pipes and there are almost 24 million connections to properties and supply pipes within customer’s homes and buildings. All of these have the capacity to leak.

Leakage levels are much lower now than they used to be. Across England and Wales leakage levels have reduced by more than a third since the mid-1990s. This saves enough water to supply the daily needs of 11 million people – or every household in London, Birmingham and Wales combined.

Your water company has a binding target to reduce the amount of water lost through leaks on its network. We set each water company a target and make sure that it meets them. We take action against any company that does not meet its targets. In the last six years companies have had to pay out more than £200 million, from their own pockets, to improve their leakage performance, following failures to meet targets.

When setting leakage reduction targets, we need to balance a number of factors. The targets we set take account of the costs of repair work and also the environmental and social costs of the wasted water so that we can get that balance right Fixing leaks can be costly. For example, replacing all the pipes in England and Wales, would cost around £100 billion. And then leakage would only be halved.

What can I do to help save water?

If you have a water meter, you can help by checking it regularly. This will help you to monitor how much water you use and see how water saving can reduce the volume and the costs of the water you use.

A meter can also tell you if there is a leak on your property, if for example your consumption goes up unexpectedly. If you do not have a water meter, you may wish to check that there are no unexplained damp areas inside or outside your property which may indicate a leak.

As a customer, you are responsible for the supply pipe to your home. This is the pipe that runs from the boundary of your property into your home. About a third of all leakage is from customers’ supply pipes. A number of companies offer free pipe repairs. You should contact your water company to find out more.

You can also help by reporting other leaks to your local water company straight away. Many companies now make this easy, via their websites or by email or twitter. Your water company is responsible for fixing leaks in water mains as quickly as possible, although priority is usually given to major bursts.

Your water company will also offer you help to save water, such as advice and simple to fit measures such as tap flow adjusters, low flow shower heads and water butts. Some companies work with charities such as Waterwise to offer home advice visits.

Find more water saving tips.