What is leakage?

In England and Wales, leakage is treated water lost from the distribution system. It includes water lost from the companies’ distribution networks and supply pipe losses from consumers’ pipes.

Leakage is affected by:

  • operational strategies (for example pressure management)
  • network characteristics (for example length of mains)
  • asset condition (for example age) and
  • customer base composition (for example rural or urban).

Why do leaks happen?

Some leaks in water pipes are inevitable as pipes can wear out or be damaged by freezing weather or the weight of traffic on roads. We expect the companies to find and repair leaks and to replace pipes that wear out. Consumers can help by reporting leaks to their water company.

Repairing leaks on customers’ pipes

The majority of companies provide free leak detection for non-household customers and some also offer these customers a free repair. Most companies that offer it, restrict the free repair service to the first leak and for external leaks (not those from beneath the property). Some companies limit repairs to owner occupied properties. If your supply pipe is in poor condition some companies may replace it free of charge rather than repair it, or offer a grant towards the cost of this work. You need to contact your water company to find out whether they offer free or subsidised repairs.

If a leak is in your supply pipe and not covered by the water company’s free repair service, you will be responsible for repairing it. If the leak is not repaired within a certain time, the water company may carry out the repair and charge you for the work.

Reducing leakage

We have set companies stretching performance commitments to reduce leakage over the 2020-25 period and we expect them to adopt innovative approaches to deliver these reductions efficiently. By achieving these commitments, the sector will cut leakage by 16% by 2025. This will save enough water to meet the needs of everyone in Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield and Liverpool.

Customers, regulators and companies recognise reducing leakage is an important part of ensuring there are resilient water supplies in the future. Lower leakage levels will also result in less stress on the environment through a reduction in the volume of water that needs to be abstracted. Water companies have committed to delivering a 50% reduction in leakage from 2017-18 levels by 2050.*

*Companies committed to the 50% reduction from 2017-18 levels in a letter from Water UK to the Secretary of State on 17/10/2018. The reduction was a recommendation from the National Infrastructure commission, ‘Preparing for a drier future: England’s water infrastructure needs’, April 2018, p.13.