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Freezing winter stalls plan to cut water pipe leaks

The freezing weather this winter will see Northern Ireland Water struggle to meet its leakage reduction targets, it has been revealed.

There were more than 480 bursts on the network as temperatures plummeted to -18 Celsius, the company said.

Around 25,000 properties were affected by fractured water mains and pipes during the coldest spell for 40 years over the new year.

Pat McParland, director of corporate affairs at NIW, said: “This has had an effect on our leakage levels and just to set expectations, we will struggle to meet our targets following what has happened.”

He gave evidence to Stormont's regional development committee yesterday and, according to NIW last year, around 180 million litres of water escapes from the system every day before it reaches household taps.

The company took control of the system from the Water Service in 2007.

Through a repair scheme they had reduced the amount of water leaking from pipes by more than 134 million litres a day.

According to their business plan, for the period 2007-2010 a reduction in leakage of over 20% was to be achieved by 2010 — that would mean levels had more than halved since 2001.

Mr McParland said that around 1,000 properties suffered disruption of supply from burst water mains or pipes for more than 12 hours.

“The work continues on the ground. We are not down yet to the levels of water production that we would expect for this time of year so we are continuing to look after the long tail of small problems,” he said.

SDLP committee member Tommy Gallagher said the bad weather was unanticipated.

“People will be worried because they understand that they are paying for this, the business community and others out there like churches will be disappointed as they have been paying for their water,” he added.

Committee chairman Fred Cobain said: “From our point of view it is just one of the hazards of the industry. It is understandable because the weather was extreme, you are just going to have to live with it.”

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