Take steps now to reduce water supply disruption this winter

Published 09 December 2020

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As winter approaches, the NFU is reminding members to have plans in place to manage the risk of disrupted water supplies on the farm.

Undetected leaks can be an issue, so now is a really good time to check water pipes on the farm.

It’s also more important than ever to take regular meter readings and submit them to your water retailer. Doing this routinely encourages closer monitoring of your water consumption and can help to identify leaks on the pipe network – which can result in larger than expected bills if left undetected.

Like all water customers, farmers are responsible for maintaining water pipes that are located on the customer’s side of the meter. So it’s worth keeping an eye on your water meter, assuming it’s safe to access it, and pipes to look out for signs of leaks.

If you have multiple water meters on the farm, then it may be worthwhile to install data loggers. These help to track water use and can help you identify where savings can be made – and spot leaks.

Keep an eye on your water bills and check whether it been based on an estimate or a reading taken by your retailer. Estimates can result in bills that are higher than expected, and so submitting your own meter reading may be worthwhile.

Providing regular meter readings to your retailer allows your account and billing to be updated to show the water you’ve used.

Most water retailers now allow you to submit your meter readings online. They also give access to online account options that allow you to look at, download and print copies of water bills when you want.

Water retailers such as Water Plus have stressed to the NFU that customers should make contact by phone or email where there are any concerns about water accounts and where help and information is needed on different payment options.

Here's our checklist:

It’s important that you check regularly for leaking pipes and fix them when found. Water wasted through leaking pipes must be paid for in most cases.

  • Check pipes on your farm regularly looking out for drips or unusually damp or lush ground, or reduced vegetation growth – that could indicate a leak elsewhere
  • Inspect ball-valves to ensure they are set correctly and not damaged to avoid, for example, overflowing water troughs
  • Make sure washers are replaced and overflows are fixed and look out for dripping taps and hosepipes so they can be stopped promptly, to help reduce water being wasted
  • Pipes should be buried at least 750mm underground to protect them from the worst of the winter weather, as well as the potential for accidental damage.

It’s also worth taking some time to think about your back-up plans so that you know how to act in response to water supply interruption or a drop in water pressure.

  • Are alternative water sources available? Do you have access to wells, springs, streams, lakes or rivers? Make sure you carry out regular checks on water quality and follow all rules set out by Defra and government agencies like the Drinking Water inspectorate (DWI) on private water supplies
  • Think about how you use water – are you using it in the best way? For example, washing down yards does not require the water drinking quality water supplied through the mains
  • Rainwater collected from the roofs of farm buildings can be used for a variety of activities including washing down hard standing areas
  • Make sure water pipes are buried underground to the correct level which helps protect them from accidental damage and low temperatures, as well as reducing the risk of a burst underground
  • Insulate pipes on your land – particularly ones in roof areas, to reduce bursts, damage and water loss
  • Does your business insurance cover any leaks or loss of earnings from water supply interruptions? Check what your business insurance includes

Free advice is often available from your retailer on how to manage water bills, leaks detection and repair, to water-saving and steps to take to prepare for any supply interruption.

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