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.

Leakage challenge

As part of PR19, we challenged water companies to reduce leakage by at least 15%. We asked companies to do this without putting extra costs on customers.

Where companies have performed much worse than average on leakage, we are stepping in to set them tougher performance commitments, so that they will catch up with the rest of the sector.

This means that we expect leakage to fall by 17% between 2020 and 2025. This will save water equivalent to the needs of everyone in Manchester, Leeds, Leicester and Cardiff.

Commitments on leakage have historically been set in relation to the ‘sustainable economic level of leakage’. However, we and others were concerned that this did not drive water companies to improve their leakage.

Our leakage challenge also takes into account customers’ views, companies’ water resource management plans, and the minimum level of leakage achievable, among other things.

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.