East Anglia acts to avert zero water day

Water supplies are at a premium in East Anglia with low rainfall (honestly) and rapid population growth – but consumers and the supplier can work together to ensure the taps keep working.

The world had a wake-up call,. Monday, April 16 was supposed to have been Zero Day – the day the water ran out in Cape Town, South Africa.

Ahead of the approaching crisis, Christine Colvin, a member of the city mayor’s advisory board, said: “It’s going to be terrifying for many people when they turn on the tap and nothing comes out.”

In the event, extreme water rationing saved the day. But the planet had received a prod; confirmation that the currency of power is shifting from oil to water.

Six thousand miles north-west of Cape Town, East Anglia is one of the driest regions in the UK with one of the fastest growing populations. Is our Zero Day approaching?

How to save water

“Love every drop” is the mantra of East Anglia’s main water supplier. It’s a proactive slogan with a dual message: we need to conserve water supplies and we can all play our part.

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And it’s why Anglian Water – which supplies more than one billion litres of water every day to 2.5 million households and more than 120,000 businesses in the region – is in the middle of a five-year, £5bn investment programme that ends in 2020.

At just 60cm (24in) a year, East Anglia’s average annual rainfall is one-third less than the rest of England – and some areas have a lower annual rainfall than the Middle East. Demand for water is growing too, as the number of new homes in the region is predicted to reach one million by 2035.

The company is now consulting on its next forward plan, 2020-25, and customers can have a say and help to shape the outcome.

Already, from wide-ranging engagement with its customers, Anglian Water is hearing that current bills at about £1.17 per household per day in 2018-19 are acceptable if the money is invested in conserving water supplies.

And top of the list of ways to be smart about water use is by “waging a war” on leaks.

“Our leakage performance is the best in the industry, with a 20pc reduction since 2010-11,” said Regan Harris, media manager, who explains that metering is playing a big role in identifying leakage.

“This year we’re spending an additional £22m on finding and fixing leaks. And we are the only water company to have a dedicated leakage team of 300 technicians whose role it is to find leaks before they can even be seen by our customers.

“Last year, they found over 8,000 leaks before anyone else knew they were there.

“All this is in addition to the £48m we’re spending this year alone on maintaining, refurbishing and renewing parts of the 37,000km water pipe network.”

Water meters

As Anglian Water rolls out its water metering programme, it is becoming clear that customers can not only save money by installing a meter, but it also helps the company to locate leaks.

Already 7,500 of the next generation of smart meters have been installed in a pilot programme in Newmarket, with imminent plans for a similar programme around Norwich when 11,000 of the new meters will be piloted in Spixworth, Old Catton, Hellesdon, Blofield and South Walsham, as well as Ranworth and Panxworth.

Ms Harris explained: “The smart meters transmit hourly readings from a property, helping customers to understand when they are using the most water so helping them to save water – putting them in control of their water bill.

“At the same time, we can see spikes in water use, such as mornings and evenings. Sometimes we will see spikes when householders are out at work or asleep in bed. That indicates a leak.

“In one case in Newmarket, we identified a leak and managed to save that customer £100 a month – all from a leaky toilet valve.”

Smart meters allow customers to see their water use in more detail than ever before and over time, allowing comparisons between water usage year-on-year and between similar types of properties in their area.

Anglian Water smart meter customers will also be able to access free tips on how to save water, make pledges to change their water behaviour and track the effect of the change on their water use.


“We’re looking long term to plan resources and infrastructure to meet the needs of this region, so we’re inviting customers to tell us what they think and whether we’re making the right choices to reflect their views,” Ms Harris added.

“Our plan will be submitted to the water regulator, Ofwat, for approval later this year. Now we’re inviting our customers to comment directly on the 2020-25 plan to make sure anything we are requesting is supported by our customers.

“In this way, we can hopefully ensure that here in East Anglia we never have to face a Zero Day.”

You can use water wisely while still having fun this summer. Here’s how:

• Stay hydrated – leave a jug of tap water in the fridge to cool rather than running the tap to get it cold.

• Finished with the paddling pool for the day? Use the water on the flowers instead of filling a watering can with tap water.

• Better still, ditch the paddling pool and head to one of the award-winning beaches along East Anglia’s coastline.

• Check the local weather forecast; if it’s going to rain tomorrow, don’t water the plants.

• Love your brown lawn – leave the sprinkler in the shed, your lawn will soon bounce back and be vibrant and green again.

• Get a water butt – it saves water and provides a handy supply if you don’t have an outside tap.

For more water- and money-saving ideas that will also help the environment, visit www.anglianwater.co.uk/environment/how-you-can-help/ten-tips Anglian Water customers can have their say at h2oletsgo.com