Several water companies have “fallen well short” on their forward planning to ensure the recent adverse weather did not impact water supplies, Ofwat has said.
The regulator warned it “won’t hesitate to intervene” if it finds companies have not had the right structures and mechanisms in place.
The aftermath of the freeze dubbed the “Beast from the East” and the rapid thaw has resulted in supply disruptions across London and the South East. Parts of the Midlands and Scotland have also been affected.
Ofwat described supply problems as “deeply distressing” for customers.
Over the weekend Thames Water, South East Water, Southern Water and Affinity Water issued a statement advising they were experiencing “exceptionally high” levels of demand for water due to multiple bursts on networks and an increase in leaks in customer properties.
The companies asked their customers with water to use “as little as possible” while they get things back to normal.
“We are putting as much extra water as we can into our local networks and fixing leaks and bursts as quickly as possible. We sincerely apologise to all those who are currently without water or experiencing low pressure,” the statement read.
It added: “Right now we really need all our customers’ support and understanding to help us rebuild supplies in our networks for everyone as quickly as possible.”
Rachel Fletcher, chief executive of Ofwat, said yesterday (5 March): “The ongoing water supply problems affecting the country, most particularly parts of London and the South East of England, have been deeply distressing for all those affected. While the recent severe freeze and thaw have undoubtedly had an impact on pipes and infrastructure, this weather was forecast in advance. A number of water companies appear to have fallen well short on their forward planning and the quality of support and communication they’ve been providing, leaving some customers high and dry.
“Everyone’s number one priority must be getting the water flowing as quickly as possible and ensuring that all customers – in particular those in vulnerable circumstances – get the support they need. When the taps are back on, we will take a long, hard look at what has happened here and we won’t hesitate to intervene if we find that companies have not had the right structures and mechanisms in place to be resilient enough.”
Michael Roberts, chief executive of Water UK, added: “The recent severe weather has meant there have been multiple burst pipes and leakages across networks. This is being felt across the country as the thaw takes hold, with areas particularly in London and the South East of England affected, and we are sorry that the effects of the extreme weather are causing many customers serious difficulties.
“We want to let those customers know that water companies are working hard as they can to stabilise the situation. All companies have robust contingency plans in place for how to deal with these challenging situations, and they are finding and fixing pipes and leaks, making sure that customers are able to access alternative sources of water.
“We urge all customers to check their local water companies’ websites and social media for updates and advice. We also thank customers for their patience.”