Wednesday 10 August 2022 06:13 PM Thames Water boss admits firm is failing on leaks but says households should ... trends now
The boss of Thames Water has admitted the firm is failing on leaks, but has urged households to use less water to fix the issue - as residents in the UK's driest village today said they have been suffering problems for years.
Tinderbox Britain faced 'lethally hot' temperatures today with the mercury reaching 93F (33C) in southern parts of England as firefighters battled fires across the country.
And millions more people are facing a hosepipe ban in the coming weeks, Thames Water said today, with the Met Office issuing an amber extreme heat warning for the next four days.
Cathryn Ross, strategy and regulatory affairs director at Thames Water, today admitted the firm 'needs to do better at fixing leaks' amid accusations of hypocrisy over imposing a hosepipe ban when it is losing 600 million litres of water every day through its pipes.
She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'We do hear what people say about leaks and it is really important that we do our bit. If we are asking our people right the way across the region to do use water wisely, we need to do that, too.
'Leaks are endemic. We have 20,000 miles of pipe, so we are not going to be able to completely eradicate leaking.' .
She added: 'We have a lot of work to do to fix Thames Water and we accept that we are not where we need to be.'
And asked whether the water firm is planning ahead for similarly dry summers in future years, Ms Ross said England needs to follow Germany and Denmark in using less water per person.
She said: 'It means demand management, it means becoming more water efficient. We use 150 litres of water per person per day in England.
'In Germany it is 20 litres and in Copenhagen, where they have had a big push on this, it is down to nearly 100 litres per person per day. There's loads more we can do. We also need more storage, we also need to look at pipes. It is a multi-pronged approach.'
Her comments come as an Oxfordshire village has become the first in Britain to run dry, with residents forced to rely on deliveries of bottled and tanker water from Thames Water.
A tanker from Thames Water pumps water into another tanker in the village of Northend in Oxfordshire earlier today following a technical issue at the local reservoir
Cathryn Ross, strategy and regulatory affairs director at Thames Water, today urged England to follow Germany and Denmark in using less water per person per day in order to combat shortages - despite the firm losing 600 million litres every day through leaks in its pipes
Villagers Catherine Yoxall and Carolyn Evans say issues with water in the village stretch back to 2018 as they were today handed bottles
Bottles of water supplied by Thames Water for residents of the village today, where it is pumping water into the supply network
Carolyn Evans (right) speaks with a Thames Water employee carrying out work in the Oxfordshire village today amid another UK heatwave
Locals in Northend near Watlington, on the Buckinghamshire-Oxfordshire border, have had to put up with a large, noisy tanker from the company which is parked opposite the village green.
The tanker increases the water pressure to the around 40 homes so people can occasionally have showers and flush the loo.
The village is ordinarily supplied by the Stokenchurch Reservoir, but it has dried up during the heatwave.
However, and locals say they have been experiencing problems since 2018.
Catherine Yoxall said: 'This has been going on for four years off and on. My children can’t have showers and we have to use bottle water to flush the loo.
'We can’t use the dishwasher, the washing machine. It is not good. There are people in the village with babies and it is not good for them.
'Sometimes it is worse than others. This summer they are blaming it on the weather, but I think it is nothing to do with that. I think it is an infrastructure problem. I know we are at the top of the hill, but so are a lot of other people.
'We are having so many leaks and they are discharging sewage into the river that we swim in. We are paying for a service that is not cheap.
'The weird thing is that Thames Water give everyone a different answer. Eight of us can ring and eight of us can be told a different thing. There is no consistency. They are not investigating because they are giving so much money back to the shareholders and in bonuses.'
Catherine, who has the tanker parked outside her home, added: 'It is noisy but I am delighted the tanker is here so we can have a shower.'
Another local Carolyn Evans, in her 70s, said today: 'We are fed up. This has been going on since 2018 - every summer. This year is the worst because the weather has been so dry.
'When the tanker comes we all rush and have showers and then it diminishes again and we get a tanker again.
'The infrastructure needs improving. I am one of the four oldest people in the village and I have been carrying water bottles backwards and forwards. The Thames Water chaps who come with the tanker are wonderful. One came out of retirement to help.
'The problem is the people who run Thames Water are getting enormous bonuses, but are not providing the service they should.'
And Glynis Langford, a 65-year-old farmer, said: 'We had a meeting in 2018 with Thames Water officials to deal with it. Nothing has been sorted. It is the same every year.'
Alice Nuttgens, in her early 60s, said: 'We are in the Chilterns, which is chalky and our suspicion is that there are leaks that have not been dealt with and the water just runs away. No matter how much we report, we are not getting anywhere with Thames Water. We have no response at all, only excuses.
'We need to get pressure on Thames Water from all quarters to get our water pressure.'
Meanwhile, Thames Water spokesperson said: 'We’re sorry to customers in the Stokenchurch area who are experiencing lower pressure than normal due to technical issues with our Stokenchurch reservoir. We have a team on site working hard to resolve this as soon as possible and the situation is improving and supplies have been restored to customers.
'We’re using tankers to help boost supplies to customers in Northend to keep up water pressures for these customers so they do not see supply issues as well as delivering water bottles.
'Customers may experience lower than normal pressure during periods of higher demand. These times are typically in the morning and during the early evening.
'We’ve also identified everyone in the affected area who has pre-registered with us as having special requirements, such as being medically reliant on water, so we can get in touch and make sure we give them the help and support they need.
'We realise how inconvenient this is, especially during such hot weather, and appreciate customers’ patience as we work to resolve things.'
'We’ve also hand delivered bottled water to customers on our priority services register.
The UK's Health and Security Agency has put Britain on a level three heat-health alert, while the AA has warned the searing heat could cause tyres to blow out on the motorways.
The Met Office has warned that the elderly, infirm and very young could suffer adverse health effects, delays to travel are possible and there is an increased risk of water accidents and fires as sunseekers head to tourist spots.
Britain has been told to brace for a sweltering heatwave this week as a Level 3 Heat Health Alert also came into effect yesterday and has been extended until Saturday - with little rain expected to help relieve the threat of drought which has prompted hosepipe bans and fire warnings.
Nearly 50 firefighters have been battling a huge 'tinderbox' blaze to stop it spreading to the Queen's Sandringham estate in Norfolk while the London Fire Brigade has been out overnight, battling grass fires across the capital.
Pictured: Sunseekers headed to Bournemouth beach on Wednesday to make the most of the sizzling temperatures
Tinderbox Britain is facing 'lethally hot' temperatures today with the mercury set to reach 93F today in southern parts of England - as millions more people face a hosepipe ban in the coming weeks
Pictured: A raging wildfire broke out near a busy road in Herefordshire, just off from Chesham Road in Berkhamsted
Pictured: Hundreds of water bottles are placed in the shade ready to be given to local residents in the village of Northend, Oxfordshire, which has run out of water
Pictured: Thames Water workers deliver bottled water the residents of the sleepy, picturesque village of Northend after it ran out of water on Tuesday
Pictured: A Thames Water tanker filled up the water supplies in the Oxfordshire village of Northend on Tuesday afternoon
Pictured: A farmer from Pimperne, near Blandford, Dorset uses a harrow to create a natural break preventing the spread of flames in a 40 acre field
A man walks his dog along a sun-bleached pathway in Richmond Park on Tuesday, as heat warnings are extended
A view of a dried up pond in the village of Northend in Oxfordshire, where Thames Water is pumping water into the supply network following a technical issue at Stokenchurch Reservoir
Pictured: Sunseekers enjoy the hot weather on Brighton beach on Wednesday as another heatwave hits the UK
Pictured: Britons hit Bournemouth beach on Wednesday afternoon as the temperature rises across England and Wales
Sunseekers are pictured on Bournemouth beach on Wednesday as the mercury set to reach 93F (33C) today in southern parts of England
A 14-year-old boy has died after getting into difficulty in a lake in Cheshunt during scorching temperatures.
Hertfordshire Police said officers were called to North Met Lake, off Cadmore Lane, Cheshunt, at 5pm on Monday, to reports the boy had not resurfaced after being in the water.
The youngster is one of at least seven teenage boys thought to have drowned during the hot weather this summer.
'Officers, the Fire and Rescue Service and the East of England Ambulance Service immediately attended the lake,' the force said in a statement.
'Emergency services carried out searches of the area, including the use of the police helicopter and specialist police divers. At just before 11pm last night a body was recovered.
'Formal identification is yet to take place, however the boy's next of kin have been informed.'
Last night Andrew Sells, head of Natural England between 2014 and 2019, accused water companies of selling off reservoirs which could have helped ease drought to housing developers.
'Several of our water companies preferred to build houses on some of their reservoirs, and last week we learned that together they have built precisely zero new reservoirs in the past 30 years', he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
'No doubt some reservoirs had reached the end of their working lives, but in abandoning this infrastructure, without any replacements, they have again put short-term profits ahead of long-term supply.'
The companies which have sold off decommissioned reservoirs in recent years include Thames Water, Severn Trent and Southern Water.
Meanwhile, nearly 50 firefighters have been battling a huge 'tinderbox' blaze to stop it spreading to the Queen's Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
The royal estate, with the Queen's residence at its centre, sits in 8,000 hectares (nearly 20,000 acres) of woods and heaths which, like much of the rest of Britain, have become parched in the heatwave.
The drama began when at least five fire engines and a water carrier were called shortly before 8am yesterday to the blaze in forest land just off the A149 near Sandringham.
It's believed Sandringham has its own fire engine in case of a blaze on the royal estate.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service said crews were using hoses and water jets.
And drivers are being urged to check their tyres before beginning journeys on 'searing Saturday'. The AA warned the start of a weekend when millions of people will be making long trips to the seaside, football matches, music festivals and holidays will coincide with extreme heat.
Pictured: Thames Water said: 'We're using tankers to help boost supplies to customers in Northend to keep up water pressures for these customers so they do not see supply issues as well as delivering water bottles'
The village of Northend on the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire border has been receiving aid from Thames Water (pictured today pumping a tank)
Bottles of water supplied by Thames Water for residents of the village of Northend in Oxfordshire, where the water company is pumping water into the supply network
Pictured: A worker from Thames Water delivering a temporary water supply from a tanker to the village of Northend in Oxfordshire, where the water company is pumping water into the supply network following a technical issue at Stokenchurch Reservoir
Local residents Catherine Yoxall (left) Carolyn Evans (right) who live in the village of Northend on the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire border
Pictured: Reduced water levels at Hanningfield Reservoir in Essex. The Met Office has issued an amber warning for extreme heat covering four days from Thursday to Sunday for parts of England and Wales
Pictured: Weir Wood reservoir in East Sussex which is currently 60 per cent full amid increasing temperatures
Due to the extreme hot weather in England and Wales, pea soup algae has begun to cover London's canals (pictured)
Pictured: Bournemouth coastline was crowded with families on Wednesday amid a Level 3 Heat Health Alert
Pictured: An aerial view of people enjoying the hot weather on the beach at Cullercoats Bay in North Tyneside on Wednesday
Pictured: An aerial view of people enjoying the hot weather on the beach at Cullercoats Bay in North Tyneside today
Specialised boats are currently being used on a daily basis to clear the algae, which has appeared in canals across the capital
As temperatures continue to rise across the UK, one Twitter user, James, shared an image showing the aftermath of a fire that had started in his village. He wrote: 'Luckily it had already been harvested but the stubble went up quick. Fire service were there blooming quickly. Building in the background is a care home. Lucky escape'
Essex Fire Service posted an image on Tuesday evening after a field fire near the M25 junction 26-25 at Waltham Abbey had started, leaving behind a scorched trail
Firefighters were also called to a field fire in Southend, Essex on Tuesday. There has been suspicion that the blaze could have been deliberately started
Martyn Read shared this image to his Twitter of a fire that had started 'just 150m from his home' in a field in Exeter
Pictured: An aerial view of the parched fields on the clifftop at Burton Bradstock on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset where the grass has been scorched by the hot sunshine and lack of rain during the summer drought condition
Pictured: Reduced water levels at Hanningfield Reservoir in Essex on Wednesday afternoon
Pictured: A view of bird house beside a dried up pond in the village of Northend in Oxfordshire, where Thames Water is pumping water into the supply network
With parts of the UK experiencing the driest conditions since the drought of 1976, experts have warned that the source of the River Thames has dried up for the first time on record.
The source of the river was originally just outside Cirencester, according to The Rivers Trust.
However, following a continuous period of dry weather, it is now more than five miles downstream, near Somerford Keynes.
Around 6.5km upstream, residents in Ashton Keynes in North Wiltshire have revealed the area is completely dry, as half the UK population could face more hosepipe bans.
Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Rob Collins, director of policy and science at The Rivers Trust, explained: 'Following the prolonged dry weather, the source of the Thames in Gloucestershire has dried up, with a weak flow now only just about discernible more than 5 miles downstream (at Somerford Keynes).
'Under our changing climate we can anticipate the frequency and severity of such periods of drought and water scarcity to intensify, with increasing competition for a dwindling resource and devastating impacts on aquatic life.'
Temperatures are expected to peak at 35C, increasing the risk of blowouts for tyres that are inflated to the wrong pressure or already damaged.
Motorists should also consider having their vehicle's cooling system checked by a mechanic as overheated engines are a common cause of breakdowns in hot weather, the AA said.
Sunseekers are set for sizzling heat across England and Wales today as temperatures are expected to reach 82F (28C) along the Bournemouth coastline, while Dover, Kent is predicted to reach highs of 75F (24C). Meanwhile, Aberdeen, Scotland has been forecast a balmy 73F (23C) and Whitsand Bay in Cornwall will see highs of 70F (21C).
The Met Office also predicted the extreme heat will become more commonplace in the coming years as global warming continues.
Professor Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Reading, said: 'The warnings for extreme heat from both the Met Office and the heat health alert issued by the UK Health Security Agency are another reminder that this summer in the UK is proving to be lethally hot.
'Compared to the July record-breaking heat, this event will be less intense but last longer, which could actually have a greater impact on people's health.
'This heatwave might not break any records for maximum temperatures, but it might actually cause more deaths.'
The hot weather led to tragedy on Monday as a 14-year-old boy has died after getting into difficulty in a lake in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.
Emergency services were called to the scene at North Met Lake, off Cadmore Lane, just after 5pm on Monday after reports that a teenager had not re-surfaced after being in the water.
They carried out searches of the area but a body was recovered just before 11pm.
Climate change is making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely, with last month's record temperatures made at least 10 times more likely because of global warming and 'virtually impossible' without it, research shows.
Scientists also warn the