While businesses are reducing water wastage to control operating costs, figures released by a consumer watchdog show that leakage in the public supply is on the rise and remains at least as much as that consumed by business users.
Water leakage across supplier network in England and Wales has risen for the two consecutive years, with water companies leaking 3,113 megalitres of water per day on average in financial year 2013/14. That’s 3,110,000,000 litres of water per day, or 1,135,150,000,000 litres per year.
Non-domestic water use in England and Wales sits somewhere around 20% of public supply. Leakage by water companies now represents around 22% of public supply, according to the Consumer Council for Water.
CCWater’s latest report, based on data supplied by water companies, show that leakage levels remain lower than the high of 2010/11 but are again heading north.
The watchdog said leakage was one of its most pressing concerns, and CEO Tony Smith said water companies “need to deliver – and we’ll be watching closely to ensure they do”.
In fairness, water firms have made steady progress on reducing leakage over the last two decades, and the regulated businesses have a duty to weigh the cost of cutting leakage against the prices they are allowed to charge customers.
Research commissioned in 2013 by CCWater showed that while the majority (69%) of domestic consumers thought water companies should make leakage reduction a priority, most were not willing to pay more for leakage to be reduced.
Whether businesses would be prepared to add to their bottom lines in return for a more efficient water distribution network is a moot point.
With the advent of water competition in April 2017, however, business users may be able to find supply cost savings in tandem with water efficiency efforts. It is also likely that new business water suppliers will compete to cross-sell equipment and services to customers, which could radically alter the make-up of the water efficiency services market.