The amount of lost water leaking from faulty pipes in the UK has fallen in the last year, industry regulator Ofwat has confirmed.
Figures released today for 2005-6 show that leakage volumes fell by around 20 million litres per day, continuing a decrease which has seen overall leakages reduce from nearly 5,000 million litres per day in 1996 to 3,600 million litres per day ten years later.
Although 22 companies succeeded in meeting their leakage targets, however, Ofwat singled out Thames Water and Severn Trent as "the worst offenders" after failing to hit their targets.
While Thames Water faces a potential fine and has already been forced to spend £150 million on improving its pipe infrastructure in London, Severn Trent's leakage actually rose by 40 million litres per day. United Utilities and Southern Water also failed to meet their targets, but Ofwat said they had put in place measures to remedy the problem.
"During a drought we expect companies to give a clear lead to consumers on the importance of conserving water," said Ofwat chairman Philip Fletcher.
"Companies have told us informally that they have made further leakage reductions since the end of March. This should follow through to significant improvements next year in those companies that are affected by the drought and those that have failed their leakage target in 2005-6."
Thames Water attracted the condemnation of Ofwat last month after admitting that it was missing the maximum leakage limit by 34 million litres a day, having registered substantial price increases leading to a 23.2 per cent profit.
Ofwat criticised the firm again earlier this week over its failure to meet standards of service required for its customers, leading the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to announce an investigation into the company.
During the present heatwave water conservation remains a hot topic. With drought orders and hosepipe bans in place across many areas of the UK, continued water leakages remain especially politically sensitive.
Andrea Cook of the Consumer Council for Water, responding to today's leakage results from Ofwat, said: "The water shortages and usage restrictions in other parts of the country give a clear message that water is a valuable resource and consumers should use it wisely."