WATER COMPANIES have ordered an 'urgent' study to find more accurate ways to detect and quantify leaks in water mains.
The research project has been initiated by industry body UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) after fears that antileakage targets set by regulator Ofwat may be based on inaccurate data.
Targets were, in part, set as a response to the 1995 Yorkshire Water shortage debacle and companies have invested heavily to tackle the problem since. Yet last year Thames Water's leakage volume increased despite having ploughed over £70M into detection meters.
Giving go ahead for the project, UKWIR said: 'Regulators have selectively taken results from a limited series of studies and used this information as a basis for estimating potential future cost savings that the industry should be able to deliver.'
There have been developments in leak detection equipment and techniques such as acoustic logging, said UKWIR.
But it added that there is 'considerable uncertainty within the industry as to the most cost effective procedures for the use of this equipment, and wide variation in current leakage survey practices'.
The project will compare survey techniques, document best practice and review how leak detection surveys can be improved and made more efficient.
UKWIR programme co-ordinator Pauline Avery said: 'This is very urgent and very important to the water industry. There is some concern that this research has been let slip as long as it has, so we are anxious to get it underway.'
An Ofwat spokesman said that most targets were based on those set by the water companies. He added: 'We welcome any initiative to improve data.'