Thames Water battling 'Beast from the East'

Last reviewed:

Thames Water teams are continuing to battle the severe ‘Beast from the East’ weather conditions on a number of fronts.

The company has rallied as many engineers and maintenance crews as possible to complete water pipe repairs, with all non-essential planned work postponed.

Extra staff have been drafted in to answer customer questions, with 7,500 calls – five times higher than average – received on Thursday, update social media channels with the latest information and log all leaks in need of repair.

Engineers are also working around the clock to ensure all critical infrastructure, including the company’s 94 water and 350 wastewater treatment works, keep running as normal in sub-zero conditions.

Thames Water’s Anthony Crawford said: “The heavy snow and freezing temperatures are continuing to impact heavily on our entire region and business. We’re doing everything we can in extremely challenging conditions to get to any customers who are without water first, as well as answer emergency calls and questions on social media.

“The number of leaks being reported has increased due to the freezing temperatures, and we’re making sure we deal with the biggest and most disruptive ones first. Our customers can also really help by checking we’re aware of any leaks they see or reporting new ones using the ‘In your area’ tracker on our website.”

Thames Water’s advanced weather monitoring technology predicted the adverse weather in detail, with 155 4x4 vehicles, snow ploughs, grit and extra teams braced across the key operational sites expected to be most impacted.

The biggest challenge, however, has been travelling around the region because of icy or closed roads, and treacherous driving conditions, and this has caused delays reaching customers.

Crawford added: “We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding during this ferocious weather, which has been some of the most testing we’ve experienced for years. We’ve all seen the disruption the blizzards and bitter temperatures have caused, but we’ll keep on doing our best to keep our network running.

“The hard work will continue throughout the weekend, with leave cancelled and teams in on overtime, and we’ll be doing everything we can to get back to normal for when it warms up next week.”

The temperature of water entering pipes from reservoirs makes a big difference to how much they leak and how likely they are to burst. Research over many years has shown that 5°C is the critical level, causing the iron pipes to pull apart slightly at the joints. Often the water doesn't get down to 5°C, but when it does there is a marked impact.

Water pipe repairs involve working closely with local councils to ensure they are carried out as soon as the company has permission and all safety measures, such as temporary traffic lights, are in place where needed.  Due to the volume of leaks, repairs may not be completed on the first visit but Thames Water has double the number of teams out gritting to make sure areas are left safe.

An advice page for customers here explains more, including a video with ITV’s Laura Tobin and what to do if your pipes freeze at home. To check if a leak has been reported please visit the 'In your area' section here.