Hosepipe hypocrites: Firm threatens water ban not fixing leaking pipes

Hosepipe hypocrites: Company threatening to impose water ban is accused of ‘cheek’ to impose the restrictions while failing to fix leaking pipes

  • United Utilities threatens millions of people with a hosepipe ban 
  • But customers are angry at United’s record of failing to fix leaking pipes
  • In all, 25 per cent of all United’s water is wasted from cracked and broken pipes
  • Chief executive Steve Mogford’s salary rose 49 per cent since 2013 to £2.3M

The water company that has threatened millions with a hosepipe ban faced an angry backlash over its failure to fix leaking pipes.

United Utilities was accused of ‘cheek’ to impose the ban on its seven million customers while it wastes vast amounts of water from leaks.

In all 25 per cent of all its water is wasted from cracked and broken pipes – a staggering 439.2 million litres every day.

Meanwhile its chief executive Steve Mogford has seen his salary rise 49 per cent since 2013 to £2.3 million last year.

United Utilities threatened millions of customers with a hosepipe ban but are facing an angry backlash over its failure to fix leaking pipes. A burst water main sends water 30ft into the air

Irate residents spoke out at the ‘cheek’ of facing restrictions from August 5.

One resident complained a leaky water main has not been fixed for nine weeks; while another complained of ‘thousands of gallons’ pouring out of a burst pipe for two days – while they were told to cut back on baths and showers to save supplies.

Cat Hobbs, director of We Own It, an organisation which campaigns for public ownership of utilities, said: ‘United Utilities is allowing an irresponsible level of leakage – 20-25 per cent

‘A hosepipe ban might be avoided if that water wasn’t being wasted. We need to bring water into public ownership now so investment can go straight into infrastructure instead of lining shareholder pockets.

‘In Paris, water is now in public ownership and leakage levels have been cut to 10 per cent.’

In all, 25 per cent of all United’s water is wasted from cracked and broken pipes – a staggering 439.2 million litres every day

Professor David Hall, a global expert on the water industry at the University of Greenwich, said privatised water firms have an incentive not to fix too many leaks as it begins to bite into profits and become uneconomic for them.

He said: ‘They are making big profits, virtually all of it taken out of the industry in dividends, not reinvesting anything and racking up debt.

‘They can’t recoup the cost of making reductions in leakage levels except by reducing profits, that’s not what they want to do.’

Stuart Fegan, GMB national officer, said: ‘It’s a disgrace that customers face a £1,000 fine as private water fat cats trouser millions, all the while failing to invest to tackle leakages.

‘While we have had hot weather, the UK uses less than 2 per cent of the water that falls from the sky each year and which flows into the sea.

‘Whatever the weather, we need to take back the tap and ensure our water services are run in the interests of the public once more and not just the few at the top.’

Customers are annoyed at being told to stop using water – when the company struggles to grips with leaks

On Tuesday, customers spoke of their annoyance at being told to stop using water – when the company struggles to grips with leaks.

One United Utilities customer complained it has taken United Utilities nine weeks to fix a leak in Denton, Manchester.

Julie Wilson, 56, who runs the Village Chippy has complained three times to United Utilities about the leak on Haughton Green Road

She said: ‘It’s madness – they could have filled four swimming pools with the amount of water that’s poured out.

‘We’ve had two letters saying they were going to turn the water off and nothing’s happened.

‘I got into work and started filling buckets at 6am and then another time a man came with digging equipment.’

‘He took one look and drove off and they have the cheek to announce a hosepipe ban.’

Sophie Gorner, of Poulton, Lancashire, said thousands of gallons of water had been wasted after United Utilities waited 14 weeks to fix the leak on her road.

Miss Gorner, a photographer student, 25, who lives with her parents, said: ‘It’s ridiculous. My mum first reported it in May and other locals have as well.

‘It’s definitely got worse, it started off as a trickle but now it’s a never-ending flow of water. They have wasted gallons of water and now there’s a hosepipe ban.’

The leak had still not been fixed yesterday.

Heavy showers swept across the region on Monday – with 14mm of rainfall recorded in Blackpool – and more is expected on Tuesday, according to the Met Office.

However, the isolated downpours were expected to ease during the afternoon, with a return to sunshine for the rest of the week.

Martin Padley, United Utilities water services director, said of the hosepipe ban:

‘It is not a decision we have taken lightly and we are enormously grateful to customers for having helped reduce the demand on our network over the last couple of weeks, but unless we get a period of sustained rainfall before August 5 these restrictions will help us safeguard essential water supplies for longer.’

Earlier this year United Utilities was one of several water companies that said it used divining rods to detect leaks – but yesterday it stressed it was using high tech methods.

A United Utilities spokesman said: ‘We now use satellites to help to detect leaks, and we have just recruited a team of sniffer dogs trained to pinpoint leaks in rural areas where the water does not always show on the surface.’

In response to specific leaks identified by the Daily Mail, United Utilities insisted all four had either been earmarked for repairs or been fixed, with works ‘well within target’.

A leak near Salford Royal Hospital was scheduled to be fixed first thing on Wednesday, spokesman Sean Robinson said.

A leak in Haughton Green Road, Denton which locals say has been going on for nine weeks was ‘more technical’, he said.

Fixing this leak ‘will mean we have to bring water in through other pipes for customers, while we switch the main off to repair,’ he said, adding: ‘We’re fixing a date at the moment.’

United Utilities said the leak in Kirkham was repaired the day after it was reported.

Repairs to a leak in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire were ‘scheduled for later this week, at a time which causes the least inconvenience to customers’, he said.

Mr Robinson added: ‘Leaks are a regular occurrence in a water system that has 42,000km of pipes which would go around the equator.

‘Our response times for all four incidents on your list were well within target.’


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