West Midlands drought: Severn Trent loses 414,600,000 litres of water each day in leaks, data shows

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As parts of England face droughts, here’s how many litres of water Severn Trent is losing everyday through leaking pipes

The West Midlands has become the latest region to be declared in drought, as new figures reveal which UK water companies have the most leakages.

The announcement, following the latest meeting of the National Drought Group, means 10 out of the Environment Agency’s 14 English regions are now in drought. Of the remainder, three are classed as being in a state of “prolonged dry weather”, with Cumbria and Lancashire the only area with normal water resources.

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Following the meeting, officials said there was no threat to essential supplies in the West Midlands, and that water companies had confirmed they have enough water for essential business and household needs. It has been the driest summer for 50 years, and the hot dry weather has also led to a large increase in demand for water.

Water companies lost over a trillion litres of water last year because of leaks.Water companies lost over a trillion litres of water last year because of leaks.
Water companies lost over a trillion litres of water last year because of leaks. | NationalWorld

How much water has Severn Trent lost through leaking pipes?

The news comes as figures show that water companies lost over a trillion litres of water through leaking pipes in England and Wales last year – the equivalent of almost half a million Olympic sized swimming pools.

For Severn Trent, the figures show that there were 414,600,000 litres of water leaked each day in 2020/21, with 151,329,000,000 litres of water leaked annually. The data also shows that 8.8 cubic metres per km of water is lost each day due to leaks with Severn Trent. This is the sixth greatest amount of leakage out of the 17 water companies in the UK.

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Which water companies leaked the most water?

The 17 main water company providers in England and Wales all lost millions of litres worth of supply because of leaks last year, with the worst performance coming from Thames Water.

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Thames Water, which is connected to almost four million properties and serves the majority of London, lost 232 billion litres of water in 2020/21 – the equivalent of almost 93,000 Olympic swimming pools. Each day the company was losing 635 million litres of water due to leaks.

In terms of water lost relative to the length of piping in its supply network, Thames Water also came out bottom, leaking 20 cubic metres per kilometre of pipe.United Utilities lost the second greatest volume of water last year at 160 billion litres, followed by Severn Trent Water with 151 billion litres. You can find out how much water your local water company lost to leaks last year in the chart below.

The statistics show that you could run a hosepipe for 15 minutes 605,316,000 times with the amount of Severn Trent water leaked in a year.

Over a trillion litres of water was lost to leaks last year.Over a trillion litres of water was lost to leaks last year.
Over a trillion litres of water was lost to leaks last year. | NationalWorld

How much are water companies paying shareholders?

Separate analysis produced by the University of Greenwich shows Severn Trent paid out £223 million to shareholders since 2010.

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The data shows that nine water and sewage companies in England alone have paid out billions of pounds to shareholders since 2010. In total shareholders have made a total of £18.9 billion in dividends since 2010 – an annual average of £1.6 billion.

Last year an estimated £531 million was funnelled to shareholders.

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They expect the current total of £0.5 billion for 2021 to climb “significantly higher” when final reports are published. This does not include the companies that just supply drinking water, without handling sewage.

The University analysed annual financial reports to arrive at the figures. Researchers claimed companies were trying to conceal the true sums paid out to private shareholders, and also said they expect the current total of £0.5 billion for 2021 to climb “significantly higher” when final reports are published.

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Anglian Water paid out the highest annual average with £557 million per year, followed by United Utilities with £284 million and Severn Trent with £223 million. You can use the interactive chart above to see how much your local water company paid out in dividends to shareholders.

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What have Severn Trent said about the figures?

A Severn Trent spokesperson said: “Every day, Severn Trent delivers on average 1.9 billion litres of water to homes across the region – which can rise to 2.3 billion litres in hot weather. This is all delivered across a complex network of 50,000 kilometres of water pipes.

“Our team of 200 engineers work 24/7 to find and fix burst pipes all across our region. In the last two years we have halved the time taken to fix a leak and have reduced leakage by 3.4%, putting us on track to reduce leakage by 15% by 2025. We’re also utilising new technologies including satellite technology that can detect leaks from space, drones that can find leaks through subtle temperature changes, and over 30,000 acoustic listening devices that can ‘hear’ leaks.

“Just under a third of all leaks are on customer premises, so working together with our customers is incredibly important. We are investing over £300m in metering and 59% of our customers – or around 2.2 million people - currently have a water meter installed, which can help them understand their usage at home, reduce their bills and identify any leaks on their property.

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“Water loss through leakage presents a challenge and can be caused by damage from extreme weather, wear and tear on the network, and the weight of ever-increasing traffic on roads linked to population growth.”

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