Leakage crack-down saving 100,000 bathtubs of water a day in Oxford

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Oxford repairs

(A recent leak repair in Queen Street, Oxford)

A major crack-down by Thames Water is seeing the company fix more than two Oxford leaks a day in a bid to conserve water.

Over 420 leaks were repaired across the city in the last six months – saving more than eight million litres of water every day. That is enough high quality drinking water to fill more than three Olympic-sized swimming pools or 100,000 bathtubs.

Tim McMahon, Thames Water’s head of water networks, said: “We’ve been finding and fixing more leaks than ever in Oxford to help conserve water and make our network more resilient for the future.

“Many of the leaks are hidden underground and can’t be seen from the road surface, and they have been found by teams of experts using high-tech acoustic loggers and electronic sensors as well as traditional listening sticks. It’s been a huge effort, delivered fantastic water savings, and is one we’re going to keep up.”

Thames Water has also trialled satellite imagery, drones and a plane fitted with thermal imaging cameras to detect leaks in rural areas.

More leaks are being fixed on private domestic pipes which the company offers to repair for free in most cases, even though the responsibility lies with the property owner. In total around 30 per cent of all leaks across the Thames Water region are on private customer pipes, inside the property boundary. 

In some areas of the city, including Botley Road, the company has three water mains running under the same stretch of road, some more than two feet wide.

Mr McMahon added: “We appreciate roadworks are frustrating, especially in such a congested city as Oxford, but feedback from our customers is they want us to reduce leakage. To do this, in the majority of cases, we do have to dig up roads to reach our pipes. To reduce disruption, we will often carry out work overnight – but this isn’t always possible due to the noise.”

It’s estimated that an extra 2.1 million people are due to move into the Thames Water region over the next 25 years. This, combined with climate change, means the company has predicted there will be a shortfall of 350 million litres of water a day between the amount available and the amount needed by 2045. By 2100, this is predicted to increase to 650 million litres a day.

In preparation, Thames Water is striving to reduce demand for water by installing meters, fixing 1,500 leaks a week across its wider region and supporting people to use less water by offering free in-home advice and water-saving gadgets, such as special shower heads. Since launching its award-winning ‘smarter home visits’ initiative in 2016, more than 14,000 Oxford homes have been visited by an army of water-saving experts who have installed more than 30,000 devices to help residents save a combined 624,690 litres of water a day.

Mr McMahon said: “The number of people living in our region is continuously growing but the amount of water available isn’t so we all need to do our bit. That’s why it’s vital we reduce leakage. We’re also encouraging our customers to save water at home and at work by making very small changes, like turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, which in a city the size of Oxford can make a big difference.”

As part of its £11.7 billion business plan for 2020-25, Thames Water has pledged to spend £2.1bn on increasing resilience and reducing leakage by 15 per cent by 2025, with plans to halve it in the longer term. Around 1,500 leaks on average are being fixed every week, a 10-year high for the company which is spending over a £1m a day to tackle leakage and improve its customer service.

Customers can visit www.thameswater.co.uk/be-water-smart for more water efficiency tips and to order free gadgets.