Ofwat has urged water companies to go “much further” to cut down on leakage and has challenged the industry to save up to 170 billion litres of water a year by targeting leaks.
The regulator said addressing the issue of leaking pipes could save enough water to meet the needs of everyone in the cities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff – a combined 3.1 million people.
It said the drive could also lead to environmental benefits, greater resilience of supply and lower bills.
The challenge, which is being consulted on, is being proposed as part of the measures for water companies to hit in the next price review period covering 2020-25.
Ofwat acknowledged water companies have made “real efforts” in recent years to cut down on leaks, but the regulator said the industry needs to go further and set “ambitious commitments” with their customers.
To achieve these commitments, companies will need to find new ways of detecting and reducing leaks and must ensure that their infrastructure is kept up to scratch, the regulator explained.
Ofwat senior director David Black, said: “Given the costs involved in treating water, these leaking pipes are money down the drain. Customers feel strongly about stopping leaks and while the sector has made progress, there is a lot more companies could and should do.
“That’s why we’re pushing each water company to really stretch themselves and get their leakage levels down. There is fantastic potential here – if companies meet the challenge, we could save enough water for 3.1 million people – that’s everyone in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff.”
Water companies have already been demonstrating new ways to tackle leakage. Severn Trent recently announced it will be trialling satellites to detect leakages in a bid to reduce leaks by 15 per cent.