Why fixing leaks is a key focus for water utility companies



Aliaxis is a Business Reporter client.

With regional droughts predicted, there is a clear need to strengthen the resilience of the UK’s water infrastructure. Rich Pedley, Segment Manager – Infrastructure Networks at Aliaxis UK, takes a look at the problems facing the water industry and how they can be overcome

Business Reporter – Aliaxis

With the increasing environmental uncertainty caused by climate change, there is a clear and pressing need to prepare for its worst effects – not least those taking the form of water shortages. The writing is on the wall – water companies will have to ramp up investment to upgrade an ageing infrastructure, with tens of thousands of miles of pipes susceptible to leaking needing to be replaced. The process has already started, but it is a daunting logistical task.

When you look at the facts, it is hardly surprising that droughts  occur in the UK, despite it having more than its fair share of rainfall. According to Ofwat, the Water Services Regulation Authority, the network in London and the Southeast is leaking 600 million litres of water a day – the equivalent of 270 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water.

Droughts are a relatively common product of the UK’s climate, typically taking place every five to ten years. The summer of 2022 was one of the driest on record for England and Wales, with a protracted heatwave and lower-than-average rainfall leading to a drought declared across eight regions during August. By the end of last summer, daily river flows – a key drought metric – were among the lowest levels ever recorded for some catchments in Southern and Eastern England. At times levels even eclipsed those reached in previous record droughts, including those in 1976, 1995 and 2018.

However, the UK experience – like the rest of the world – is down to shifting weather patterns, with some experts believing droughts will become a more commonplace aspect of the British summer.

We increasingly hear about failures in infrastructure relating to energy and water in parts of industrial Britain. At the heart of this is an ageing infrastructure legacy of old cast-iron pipework systems – some more than 100 years old – needing to be replaced.

An engineered infrastructure is perhaps the most crucial aspect of water resilience and is the area that water companies and utility providers have the most control over. With water scarcity a growing concern for the UK, it is imperative that the infrastructure is in good working condition to safeguard against leakage.

One of the biggest burdens placed on water companies is that of sudden unplanned maintenance projects needing urgent repairs to be carried out. The additional expenditure for the repairs and replacement of pipework takes money away from other planned projects.

Regardless, the upgrading of the UK’s water infrastructure clearly needs to be accelerated. This situation has partly come about through a combination of a lack of funding and the effect of short-term CAPEX decisions. Opting for what appears to be cost-effective solutions in terms of purchasing materials at the beginning of a project can end up costing far more thanks to the need for increased levels of maintenance and repair.

Therefore, taking the long-term approach is the right solution – not looking towards the immediate future and immediate CAPEX, but a 50 years-plus timescale for water pipe infrastructure. It’s important to consider design support at the specification stage and ensure the products and services included within the system are created to last for half a century or more.

In recent years there has been a clear move towards plastic over metal pipes because of the numerous advantages they offer. These benefits include the material’s ease of installation, a lightweight and flexible composition, its ability to withstand corrosion, reduced leakage, protection against all known contaminants and minimum maintenance requirements.

Electrofusion

The manner in which pipes are jointed is just as important as the material they are made from. With plastic pipes, the electrofusion process diffuses heat across the joining surfaces to create a safe and reliable homogenous welded joint that can withstand the pressures seen within typical energy networks.

Electrofusion jointing using fittings made from high-grade polymers with low rates of degradation is the obvious choice for water and gas installations, but it needs to be correctly installed for the benefits to be realised, and to safeguard against unnecessary leakage. And a lack of appropriate training, high labour turnovers and a shortage of skills can lead to poor installation.

The Aliaxis solution

Aliaxis is committed to providing the very best quality electrofusion products and training to guarantee ultimate peace-of-mind for the life of the system.

At the heart of our offering is our Frialen safety fitting range, a unique and high-quality electrofusion solution that is precision-engineered to address installation challenges. We take pride in focusing on the needs of the designer, installer and asset owner, which is why it is incredibly important to us to provide dedicated technical support throughout the supply chain.

This includes bespoke product training, and a host of resources designed to give contractors the tools they need to get it right every time, including step-by-step installation guides, on-site technical support and a dedicated e-learning platform for continuous training opportunities.

As the UK’s climate changes, it has never been more important to consider the central role that we all play in bolstering the country’s water resilience.


To learn more about our electrofusion Frialen range, please visit aliaxis.co.uk/potablewater.

About Aliaxis

Aliaxis is a world leader in fluid management solutions, providing innovative and sustainable solutions that help address the world’s water challenges and accelerate the transition to clean energy.

Operating in over 40 countries, Aliaxis employs more than 14,000 people worldwide and provides piping and fitting solutions to meet the most demanding needs of the building, infrastructure, industrial and agriculture sectors.

Aliaxis collaborates with its partners on projects from inception through to completion, sharing its wealth of industry expertise to help solve problems in safer, smarter and more effective ways. From this, Aliaxis strives to create reliable, sustainable fluid management solutions, all-round performance and complete peace of mind.



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