Drought

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.

To tackle water scarcity in drought periods, water companies must prioritise efforts to reduce leakage and drive improvements in both customer service and environmental impact. Water companies have a responsibility to communicate vital information to customers and promote water conservation practices effectively.

Ofwat, along with other regulators, is actively engaged in significant infrastructure initiatives aimed at enhancing water supply in the future.

Ofwat is a member of the National Drought Group, which is comprised of senior members from the English and Welsh governments, the Environment Agency, National Resources Wales, water companies, and farming and environmental groups.

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

Every water company must prepare a 25-year plan for managing water supplies. These Water Resource Management Plans (WRMPs) must show how water companies will:

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

These plans must also show how water companies will meet demand over the long-term, taking account of things like:

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

WRMPs are approved either by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or by Welsh Ministers.

Climate change and population growth mean that our water supplies are already becoming scarce. If we are to meet the significant challenges of the future, we will need to start to do things differently.

Find out about safeguarding the water supply for the future.

Why do water companies sometimes have to restrict water supplies?

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. Allowing unlimited water use during long periods of very dry weather would be expensive for water companies and very damaging to the environment.

Water supply restrictions on non-essential use, including hosepipe bans, are important measures that are taken as part of broader drought plans to make sure that essential supplies are protected during .

Find out more about hosepipe bans – what they are what they mean for the public.

Why don’t companies address leakage instead?

Leakage in England and Wales is at its lowest ever level since privatisation, is lower than in many other European countries, and is significantly lower than in either Scotland or Northern Ireland.

But leakage still needs to be further reduced. We have set a challenge to water companies to cut leakage between 2020-25 by enough to serve 6 major cities: Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield, and Liverpool. Longer term, companies have committed to reducing leakage by 50% from 2017-18 levels by 2050.

Ofwat takes robust action when we find that water companies have not met leakage commitments.

Water companies publish information about the services they provide, including work to reduce leaks: visit Discover Water website.

Find out more about reducing leakage in the water industry.

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. Find out more about water meters.

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 leaks in public spaces, such as burst water mains, to your local water company straight away. Many companies now make this easy, via their websites or by email or twitter, alongside telephone and letters. 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, including advice and simple to fit measures, for example, 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.