A policy position statement (PPS) update of 9th June 2015 by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) outlines the key issues associated with leakage in the UK between the point of input to the treated water distribution system and the limits of underground supply pipes within customers’ properties. This loss of water, known colloquially in UK as ‘total leakage’, consists of distribution leakage on water company pipes up the point of delivery and underground supply pipe leakage on customers’ pipes. CIWEM is the leading independent UK Chartered professional body for water and environmental professionals, promoting excellence within the sector.


The PPS can be downloaded free here.

The PPS commences by outlining CIWEM’s general position on leakage in the UK, with contextual reference to Customers, Economic Level of Leakage and Leakage Targets, Leakage Performance Indicators, the Environment, and New Technology, Research and Development.

Subsequent sections of the PPS cover in more detail:

  • the setting of sustainable economic leakage targets in the UK;
  • measuring leakage and ‘fit for purpose’ performance indicators
  • the primary components of leakage management
  • benefits of leakage reduction
  • key issues
  • discussion
  • terminology, further reading and references

The PPS is generally supportive of the conclusions of the recent EU Reference Document ‘Good Practices on Leakage Management’. Some of the many interesting aspects mentioned are:

  • around one quarter of ‘total leakage’ as reported by UK companies occurs on customer-owned underground supply pipes (although the proportion varies between Companies). Most companies are installing new meters at the property line, which will assist in rapid identification and repair of leaks on private supply pipes
  • CIWEM continues to recommend that leakage should definitely not be quoted in terms of percentages of system input volume; it is misleading for comparisons because of differences and changes in consumption, and it is a zero-sum calculation which cannot identify true reductions in leakage and consumption in the same year.
  • International comparisons of technical performance in managing leakage using Infrastructure Leakage Index (ILI), which was developed by an IWA Water Loss Task Force for this purpose, suggest that current economic leakage levels of UK water utilities are not the lowest in Europe and internationally, but lie within a leading group of technically advanced countries.
  • research by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) shows that leakage is a top priority issue for 28 per cent of customers with the perception that water companies are not doing enough, although they are generally not aware of the substantial investment which is already being made. The research also shows a link between the company level of leakage and customers’ willingness to support water conservation measures.
  • because of the high political and media interest in leakage, the role that future leakage reduction can play in securing reliable water supplies may be over-played in some parts of the UK, and the cost to achieve and maintain low leakage levels needs to be understood by stakeholders.