North-west England’s hosepipe ban rained off

Written by on August 2, 2018

The first hosepipe ban of the summer that would have affected seven million people in England has been called off off three days before it was to start because of the “recent deluge and a drop in temperatures”.

United Utilities had said on Tuesday that there would be no U-turn on the decision to start the ban on Sunday, but it has now announced that the demand for water has eased.

It also said customers’ water-saving efforts meant there was no need to introduce any restrictions, but that a future ban in the autumn might be a possibility.

The water company was criticised last month after it announced plans for the ban affecting 7m households and it was revealed to be the for leaking pipes.

United Utilities loses 133 litres of water per property a day, well above the average of 121 litres and second only to Thames Water.

Dr Martin Padley, the company’s water services director, said: “Given the improved position, helped by recent rainfall, we do not want to inconvenience customers unnecessarily at this time.

“However, the long-range forecast from the Met Office is one of relatively dry weather into the autumn, so future restrictions are still a possibility if more rain doesn’t arrive.”

United Utilities and the other privatised water companies have come under pressure over the way the industry is run and the amount of water they waste while making billions in profit.

According to the GMB union, 439m litres of water a day is wasted in north-west England. Across England and Wales, 3bn litres of treated water was lost daily in 2017, the union calculated.

Padley said leakage teams were working 24 hours a day to find and repair as many leaks as possible. The company was also making changes to operations including installing new pumping stations, pumping between reservoirs and bringing groundwater sources into use, he said.

Thames Water has also called on customers in the south-east to save water. Temperatures are forecast to rise as high as 30C again at the weekend, pushing up demand.

Following a summit between farming leaders and officials on Wednesday, the Environment Agency said it would allow farmers more flexibility in taking water from rivers, given threats to crops and livestock.

The first half of the summer was the driest on record in the UK, and last month was the third hottest July recorded, though much of the country experienced cool, wet and windy weather last weekend.

Stuart Fegan, a GMB national officer, welcomed United Utilities’ move but demanded the company invest more in its infrastructure.

He said behaviour suggested private water companies were more than happy to risk fines from Ofwat rather than make the necessary investment in water infrastructure to stop leaks.

He added: “The bosses of England’s privatised water companies must sit up and take note of the public reaction to hosepipe bans while they make huge profits, pay their CEOs a fortune and have failed to sufficiently invest in our water infrastructure as promised.”

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