Water Industry News

7 FAQs About Water Leaks Switch Water Supplier Blog

The last few months have been relatively erratic where UK weather is concerned, with the driest February for 30 years quickly followed by the wettest March for 40 years.


These changeable conditions are putting extra pressure on freshwater resources around the country, which are still struggling in some places after the prolonged drought that was seen in 2022. And with mini heatwaves seen throughout June, early warnings about drought this year have been issued, as well.


Households have now been called upon to save water now to help ease the situation over the next few weeks, while a hosepipe ban has been introduced in Kent and Sussex to reduce water abstraction and shore up supplies.


Furthermore, water companies around the country have been warned to prepare more effectively for extreme climate shocks, which are expected to become more frequent as time goes on, with the country moving from wet conditions to drought very quickly indeed.


Although there are many exacerbating factors behind the UK’s water stress and scarcity issues, everything from increasing urbanisation, extreme weather events and pollution to population growth, one big challenge that the country faces is its ageing infrastructure.


The pipes have been in place since Victorian times and much of the network is no longer fit for purpose, struggling to hold up under the weight of increasing demand.


Water leaks are fast becoming commonplace in many regions, with some three billion litres of water lost through leakage each and every day… which suggests that one of the quickest and most immediate ways in which water shortages could be dealt with is through addressing leakage rates.


However, it seems that this message is still yet to be received in some quarters. Thames Water, for example, has just come under fire for its leakage rates, which are the highest they’ve been in five years, with the company set to miss its target for repair work this year.


According to the Guardian, it’s estimated that 630 million litres of water a day is lost through Thames Water pipes.


As with other suppliers, the firm has a target to reduce leakage by 50 per cent come 2050, but the Environment Agency has now issued a call for the company to increase this target. Failure to do so will likely put water supply security at risk in the south-east and London.


Of course, it’s not simply a Thames Water issue and everyone – consumers and businesses alike – will have their part to play in reducing pressure on water supplies, whether that’s through water leak detection and repair or something else.


Water leaks do represent one of the most immediately significant opportunities to make very real inroads in protecting the nation’s water supplies, however, so with that in mind here are some FAQs about leakage and what can be done about them.


What is water leakage?


Leakage is simply water that cannot be accounted for and which hasn’t been delivered to homes or businesses, or used for water supplier operations. It’s caused by a variety of factors, such as how suppliers manage water pressure and the condition of the pipe network.


How do water leaks occur?


Damage to water pipes is very common and it can happen for any number of reasons, whether it’s because of age and general deterioration, vibration from traffic overhead, weather erosion, poorly connected pipes, accidental damage or problems caused by animals.


Why is it so hard to sort out water leaks?


Part of the problem with leaks is that they’re very difficult to detect. They can be so tiny that they’re barely a trickle, which means identifying them can be tricky until you see a spike in your water bills or until you spot signs of water damage.


No matter how intense the efforts are to find and fix leaks, they are an inevitable part of life unfortunately, since pipes will always wear out over time or be damaged as they expand and contract throughout the year.


What problems can a water leak cause?


Even minor leaks can cause all sorts of issues, particularly if they go unnoticed for some time. It’s not unheard of for leaks to continue trickling away for months or even years, which can lead to serious structural damage to a building, damage that can be very costly and time-consuming to sort out.


Visible water stains and other irreversible damage can also be caused, while mould can also develop and this can prove hazardous to human health.


What are the signs of a water leak?


There are various warning signs you can look out for that could indicate you have a leak onsite, aside from the aforementioned spike in water bills.


Look out for the likes of permanently leaking toilets, bad smells arising from the floor or near drains, cracks and spots on the walls, damp or darker patches on walls and ceilings, the constant noise of running or dripping water, peeling or bubbling paintwork and so on.


What equipment can be used to detect leaks?


There’s lots of different technology that can be deployed to find leaks so that essential repair work can be carried out. Ground microphones, for example, are used to amplify the sound of running water so it’s easier to pinpoint the location of the leak.


Gas techniques can also be used, where a nitrogen and hydrogen gas mixture is injected into the mains water supply. If gas is seen to escape from any faulty areas of the pipe, the weak areas will be revealed.


Interestingly, dogs can also be used to help find leaks! South West Water, for example, has been using highly trained dogs to find leaks in rural areas, with the animals able to sniff out small traces of chlorine in treated drinking water.


How can businesses reduce water leaks?


Before suspected water leaks can be detected across business sites, a water audit is typically carried out, with water bills from the last year or so analysed to reveal any spikes in water usage and wastewater management charges. In doing so, you should be able to tell if you do have a leak and how severe it is.


If you’d like to find out more about water bill validation, get in touch with the SwitchWaterSupplier.com team today to see how we can help.