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Nether regions


I read with interest the debate Should minimum disruption construction techniques in urban areas be mandatory?

(NCE 5 July).

I have just returned from the Netherlands as part of a fact finding mission to understand how leakage from the Dutch water distribution system is typically as low as 5%.

A major factor, in addition to having a relatively new system, low operating pressures and treatment to reduce corrosion, is that the mains are laid in the pavement. This is particularly useful for minimising leakage as the mains are laid in sandy soils and not covered with impermeable tarmac.

When a burst occurs it shows immediately at the surface and one Dutch water company claimed to be on site within an hour of receiving a call from the public. Another claimed to have the burst repaired within four hours.

The decision to put utility services in the pavement was made principally to ensure a safe working environment for maintenance. Contractors and utility staff can work on mains and services at very short notice with minimal traffic disruption.

Clearly in the UK this cannot be done retrospectively. But for greenfield development why not take a lead from the Dutch?

Such a decision would certainly be in the community interest.

David Howarth (M), National Water Demand Management Centre, Environment Agency, Guildbourne House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 1LD

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