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Engineers urged to plug England's daily 3bn litre water leak

Flickr/ Bertram Nudelbach

Water industry engineers must stop infrastructure leakage or England could face serious water shortages by 2050, the Environment Agency has warned.

Around 3bn.l of water per day is lost to infrastructure leakages – enough water for 20M people – according to the Environment Agency, which has urged water companies to invest more money to tackle the problem.

Publishing its first major report on water resources in England, The State of the Environment: Water Resources, Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd called on water companies to make “ambitious water resource management plans” to avoid future water shortages.

“We need to change our attitudes to water use. It is the most fundamental thing needed to ensure a healthy environment but we are taking too much of it and have to work together to manage this precious resource,” she said.

“With demand on the rise, water companies must invest more in infrastructure to address leakage instead of relying on abstraction and the natural environment to make up this shortfall.”

Water regulator Ofwat has set firms the goal of reducing the amount of water lost to leakages by 15% in the next funding period, AMP7 (2020-2025).

Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts defended the water companies’ records. He told the BBC: “Let’s not forget that £150bn has been invested in improving the infrastructure over the last 30 years,” adding that infrastructure leakage is now a third less than it was 30 years ago.

But he admitted there is a long way to go. “There’s a heck of a lot more to do, both as individuals and as companies,” he said.

Population growth and unsustainable water abstraction are also putting pressure on the country’s water resources. In 2017 water was taken from 28% of groundwater and 18% of surface water at unsustainable levels, while a target to limit personal water use to 140.l per day is included in the Environment Agency’s 25 year environment plan, published in January.

Meanwhile UNECSO warned civil engineers are facing a growing challenge to provide clean drinking water to 2.1bn people around the world, threatening the UN’s ability to meet its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to make sure water is managed sustainably.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Alan Sim

    Whilst it is important we take action on leakage rates to sustain water distribution at suitable levels, we really should be considering other approaches to water use and re-use, especially in the home. We shouldn't be using potable water to flush our toilets and grey water collection should be considered country wide. This would free up a percentage of existing supplies for potable use only.
    Maybe the Planning Inspectorate should get involved and press for inclusion of grey water capture in all new developments.

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