Southern Water has increased the size of its leakage team and is employing new tools and techniques to find and fix leaks as the South East faces a future of more people and less water. This is part of the organisation's commitment to halve leakage by 2050.
Southern Water has committed to triple the rate of leakage reduction and is making major investments in technology both to find and fix leaks to keep taps and rivers flowing as part of its commitment to both customers and the environment.
During 2020-21, Southern Water installed 7,400 acoustic loggers, increased the number of find and fix teams and completed 20,000 leak repairs with 250 field staff supported by 50 analysts and planners.
The company is on track to meet its commitment to reduce leakage by 15% by 2025, 40% by 2040 and 50% by 2050 .
Since April we have fixed 5,443 bursts and leaks (1094 in Hampshire, 420 on the Isle of Wight, 1660 in Kent and 2269 in Sussex). That's the equivalent of more than 44 leaks and bursts fixed every day.
Summer is crucial
When the temperature rises, so does people's water use. In the latest heatwave demand increased by around 100 million litres of water a day across the region. making the importance of stopping water going to waste even greater when it's hot.
Phil Tapping, Regional Demand Manager at Southern Water, explains: "When the weather gets warm, we ask customers to reduce their use because demand can outstrip our ability to treat water and pump it through our vast network leading to low pressure. It's just the same as someone filling the kettle or flushing the loo while you're in the shower upstairs- the flow can drop.
"We've worked hard over the last few years and have reduced the amount of treated water lost through leakage, including repairing more than 63 leaks a day, every day, for the last year.
"It's important for people to know that we are chasing down every leak we can at the same time as we're asking them to think twice about the length of their shower or not using a hose to water the garden or clean the car.
That's why Southern Water has invested in growing its team and equipping them with new tools and techniques to spot and sort leaks.
Investing in improvements:
Millions of litres of water are saved each day by the leak alarms fitted on most water meters. However, Southern Water's 200-strong leakage team also works proactively, moving from area-to-area and working around the clock to find and fix leaks on the region's 13,905km of water mains - that's almost the same as the distance from England to Australia.
In addition the team now has innovative technology and new approaches to help drive down leakage faster and further:
Acoustic loggers - During 2020-21, Southern Water installed 7,400 acoustic loggers. These sensors ‘listen' for the signature hiss of a leak and pinpoint the source, so the teams can swoop in and fix the problem. In addition, new sensors are being trialled in the Sussex North area.
Advanced pressure management - Leakage is often greater when water pressure is high. Southern Water is part way through rolling out an Advanced Pressure Management system, which should be complete in 2022. This is expected to improve leakage performance by giving the organisation better control over water pressure across its network, including the ability to alter and optimise pressure remotely across the entire network.
Vacuum Excavation - Leakage specialist and Southern Water partner Clancy has also deployed a new method to repair leaks via a ‘Vacuum Excavation' machine. This is expected to speed up repairs in a safe and efficient way, causing less disruption to customers and the users of the public highway. This has been successfully used in the Southampton and Chatham areas.
Targeting household savings - Southern Water is installing 100,000 smart meters by 2025 and investing £14 million to support water-saving home visits and help detect leaks in homes. Together, these initiatives will give customers a greater understanding of how much water they use and how they can use less, helping them to reduce their bills while also using only what they need.
Alongside new technology, Southern Water is also changing its approach. Phil elaborates, "Visible leaks may not be where big water losses are taking place. We have to go for high impact water loss - pipes deep underground or in remote areas. With our new technology and investments in IT, which help us to analyse what's happening in the network, not only will we be able to find and fix plenty of leaks - we'll be targeting our activity on the biggest losses."
How customers can help
Southern Water also relies on customers reporting leaks they see - especially during the summer when more people are out and about and leaks are easier to spot. Leaks can be reported on Southern Water's 24 hour emergency hotline 0330 303 0368 or online at southernwater.co.uk/report-a-leak.
Notes to editors:
Southern Water supplies 563 million litres of drinking water every day to more than two million customers and treats and recycles 758 million litres of wastewater for more than four million customers in Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
A single paddling pool may not seem a lot but can use up to the same as 300 toilet flushes, 2000 hand washes or 7500 cups of tea, this multiplied by thousands of pools across gardens in the area is a lot
Water is essential to every aspect of our lives - for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Southern Water is proud to be at the heart of managing water and wastewater services. However, the South East's water supply faces big challenges. The population of the region is growing fast, and climate change will bring droughts and more extreme weather. It's a future of more people needing water and wastewater services, with less water to go around.
Southern Water's vision is to create a resilient water future for customers in the South East. Its purpose is to provide water for life to enhance health and wellbeing, protect and improve the environment and sustain the economy. That's why it is acting now for the challenges ahead.