Water companies have shown they will take a tough line on businesses that illegally access hydrants and water mains, following a spate of successful prosecutions.
Severn Trent has prosecuted 26 cases of illegal use since July 2016 as part of a “zero tolerance” policy.
Measures to reduce unauthorised access include using standpipe hire schemes, which allow businesses to access remote water supplies, and appeals to the public to report illegal activity.
“Illegal hydrant use is a serious problem, not only for us as a company, but also for our customers,” said Dan Littlewood, a senior water fittings technician at Severn Trent.
“Illegal users steal water the rest of us have to pay for and their unauthorised actions often lead to disturbances in our pipes which can result in discoloured water or in some cases loss of water for our customers.”
Several other companies have taken action against thieves in 2017:
South Staffs Water made its first ever prosecution for illegal hydrant use in July, recovering £8,000 in fines and legal costs. Earlier this year, Southern Water launched an investigation on illegal access following a tip off from The Sun newspaper.
NI water has also recently launched a publicity campaign to encourage the public to report water thieves. “Most people do not realise that water theft affects them, many actually see it as a victimless crime—it is not,” said NI Water’s head of metering and billing Dr Gary Curran.
“This reckless behaviour also increases the risk of contamination to the public water supply and is therefore a significant risk to public health,” he added.
Businesses that require remote access to a water supply can contact water companies to request authorised standpipe hire, which includes in-built metering and training on correct usage.