The latest figures from the water sector indicate that water companies in England and Wales lost over 1 trillion litres of water due to leaks in their pipes last year. According to Ofwat, the industry’s financial regulator, the water companies lost an average of 2,923.8 million litres of water per day in 2021-22, equivalent to 1.06 trillion litres over the year. However, these figures are still provisional until validation checks are completed.
To put it into perspective, the amount lost is equal to 426,875 Olympic swimming pools or over three and a half Lake Windermere. The industry body Water UK reported that Thames Water had the highest amount of leaked water, with 217 billion litres lost over the year. Severn Trent Water, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, and Northumbrian Water followed closely behind.
The data also shows that total leakage has decreased slightly over the past five years, dropping from 1.2 trillion litres in 2017-18, which has been corroborated by Ofwat. This article aims to guide businesses on how to deal with a burst water main.
Why Do Pipes Burst
Burst pipes are a common plumbing issue that affects both residential and public water systems. Various factors can cause burst pipes, with freezing temperatures being the primary culprit. When pipes are left unprotected in areas without adequate heating, they become vulnerable to freezing. When water freezes, it expands, creating pressure inside the pipe, which eventually causes it to burst. Typically, the weaker points in the pipe, such as the joints or the middle, are the first to break. Unfortunately, since much of the piping is hidden in walls, ceilings, or floors, the resulting damage can be severe. In fact, burst pipes can lead to devastating consequences, with the average insurance claim for such incidents amounting to £14,000. In 2010, for instance, the total insurance bill for burst pipes during the winter reached over £660m
What To Do When a Pipe Bursts
In the event of a burst pipe, it’s essential to act quickly to minimise the damage. The first step is to shut off the water at the mains by turning off the main stopcock to stop the flow of water into the house/business. If water continues to flow, drain the cold water in the system by flushing the toilet several times and running all the cold taps until the flow dries up. If electrical sockets are affected, turn off the main electrical supply immediately.
Next, contact your insurer, especially if your home/business has been damaged by water or has become unsafe. Your insurer may have a 24-hour helpline that can help you find an authorised tradesperson to assist with repairs. Contacting a reputable professional plumber or electrician to assess the damage and make immediate repairs is also essential. If you plan to claim on your insurance for any damage, be sure to contact your insurer before arranging for a plumber or electrician to visit.
Document the damage, including taking photographs and keeping receipts for replacement items, and follow your insurer’s instructions on making a claim. Getting your home/business back to normal after damage from a burst pipe can take time, so be prepared for cleaning, drying, and repairs that may take several weeks or longer.
Preventing burst pipes is crucial, and taking preventative measures can help. For instance, keep your home’s /business’s central heating at a minimum of 15°C (59F) for a few hours each day if you’re going away and the temperature is likely to drop below freezing. Consider completely draining your system if you’re going to be away for a long time over the winter. Lagging your loft, cold water storage tank, and water pipes can also reduce the risk of freezing, and leaving your loft hatch open can allow warmer air to reach the loft and prevent the temperature from getting critically low.
In conclusion, the water sector in England and Wales experienced a significant loss of over 1 trillion litres of water due to leaks in their pipes last year, according to the industry’s financial regulator Ofwat. Burst pipes are a common issue that can cause severe damage to homes and businesses, with freezing temperatures being the primary cause. It is crucial to act quickly in the event of a burst pipe, including shutting off the water at the mains and contacting a reputable professional plumber or electrician to assess and repair the damage. Preventative measures such as keeping your home’s/business’s central heating at a minimum of 15°C, lagging your loft and water pipes, and draining your system if you’re going to be away for a long time over the winter can help prevent burst pipes