Southern Water in pledge on leak detection

Bewl Water - April 2012 Bewl Water reservoir on the border of Kent and East Sussex is currently 60% full when it would normally be 90% full at this time of year

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Southern Water has pledged to meet its leakage targets after two of the driest winters on record in the South East.

Last year the water company, which supplies Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, wasted an average of 96 million litres a day through leaks.

It was told by water regulator Ofwat to return £5m to its customers for failing to deliver leakage reduction targets.

Director of communications Geoff Loader said there would always be leaks but it was working hard to find and fix them.

'Potential leak'

He told BBC Inside Out South East: "Quite clearly we can't go leaking water and not managing that situation and then ask customers to save water, that would simply be wrong.

"What we do have to accept though is there will always be a large amount of leaks from a system because that's the way it will always be.

"The system is something like 13,000km long, it's got millions of joints in it, everyone is a potential leak."

Analysis

Despite the wettest April in the South East since 2000 we are still in drought because of two years of well-below average rainfall. In the South East annually we would expect 776.8 millimetres of rainfall. In 2010 we saw 689 millimetres and in 2011 even less than that, 634.8.

This April, however, has bucked the trend. Normally for the month we would expect 53 millimetres of rain. In fact we saw 135.4 millimetres - that is 257% of the average. We will of course need consistently more rain to make up the rainfall totals.

Mr Loader said: "I guarantee we'll come in well below that target when the new targets are set."

Last week Green Party leader Caroline Lucas criticised the company for wasting so much water, and called on it to invest some of its profits in dealing with the issue.

Southern Water said between September last year and February it beat the leakage target set by Ofwat by 10 million litres of water per day, and was currently recording its lowest leakage figures for four years.

Much of southern and eastern England has been officially in a state of drought since February.

Reservoir and aquifer levels remain well below average despite recent heavy rainfall and one of the wettest Aprils on record.

Hosepipe and sprinkler bans are also in force and customers have been told to cut down their water use.

Inside Out Special: Drought 2012 is broadcast on Wednesday, 2 May at 19:30 BST on BBC One England and for seven days thereafter on the iPlayer.

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