Water regulator Ofwat has slammed companies for failing to prepare for cold weather during the ‘Beast from the East’ which left thousands of customers without water.
Thames Water, Severn Trent, Southern Water and South East Water were singled out for particularly poor performance and will be required to submit an action plan to address the issues.
Poor preparation and planning were highlighted as key issues during the cold snap in March, while several companies were pulled up for a lack of adequate emergency response plans, a damning report into the failings concluded.
Limited or inaccurate data to locate problems was also a failing, the regulator said, and companies were not able to remotely manage their networks and move resources.
Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher said: “The freeze and rapid thaw earlier this year was forecast and was not unprecedented.
“A number of water companies showed what can be done to serve customers in the face of bad weather. But too many companies were caught off guard and let people down, causing real hardship as a result.
“Our report shows there is no excuse for this level of failure.
“Four companies have three months to satisfy us that they will be ready to perform at the level customers deserve the next time there is bad weather. We will take action if they don’t rise to the challenge.
“We expect every water company to take action on the back of this review and the industry as a whole to transform how it works together in situations like these.
“Water is an essential service. Water companies must be prepared for whatever the weather brings.”
More than 200,000 customers were left without water for four hours or longer, and 60,000 customers experienced disruption for 12 hours or more.
Thames Water said the scale of leaks and bursts was the “worst in living memory” and said it would work with Ofwat to “protect customers from future supply chain disruption”.
Southern Water said it was investing in the resilience of its network and adding more remote sensing devices, as well as overhauling its incident management system.
A spokesperson for Severn Trent added: “We accept Ofwat’s findings and are committed to submitting our action plan in September.”
New Civil Engineer has contacted South East Water for comment.