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.

Sustainable economic level of leakage

We require the water companies to fix leaks, as long as the cost of doing so is less than the cost of not fixing the leak. The cost of not fixing a leak includes environmental damage and the cost of developing new water resources to compensate for the water lost through leaks.

This approach is called the sustainable economic level of leakage and gives consumers the best value for money.

Progress on reducing leaks

The water companies have made progress in reducing leaks, and leakage is down about a third from its 1994-95 high. The companies have individual targets based on the sustainable economic level of leakage in their distribution network. If companies do not meet their leakage targets we can take action against them.

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.