Tackling leakage remains one of the water industries most complicated challenges. Whilst water wholesale companies are at the forefront of this challenge, a significant proportion of water is lost each year from both domestic and business supplies. Business water retailers have a critical role to play by monitoring their customers consumption directly and with 3rd parties. It is important that once a leak is identified, detection and repair teams react quickly, especially as not all water wholesalers offer compensation for lost water and for those that do, terms and conditions apply.

A complicated leak investigation and repair gave water retailer Source for Business the opportunity to support one of their customers, Unite Students, the UK’s largest manager and developer of purpose built student accommodation.

Working with the customers energy consultant, Ignite Energy, Source for Business investigated a sudden increase in consumption at Unite Students’ Stratford One site in East London. The increase in consumption had been detected by Ignite’s daily exception monitoring regime and was followed up to confirm that the leak seemed genuine. A leak detection team quickly established that there was a leak which was losing 540 litres of water to ground every minute. This was costing Unite Students a significant amount of money as well as the risk of damage to their own site and nearby property.

The team utilised the latest technology including listening devices to pinpoint the exact location of the leak. Engineers were then deployed during harsh weather conditions to repair the damage. The repair proved to be more complicated than was initially thought due to the site and its proximity to a major UK railway line. As is sometimes the case, there was landowner uncertainty about who had responsibility for the affected area which required liaison with both the site and neighbouring companies. Once this was clarified, multiple permissions had to be obtained from the landlord before work could begin. As repairs were due to get underway, there was some concern about the proximity of the nearby railway line and the integrity of a bank that acted as a boundary between the sites as a result of the water ingress. This was resolved and work started just as the media named 'Beast from the East' hit the UK, bringing freezing temperatures and heavy snow, which made for challenging working conditions.

The leak had been caused by a burst pipe and when the repair team excavated to replace this section, they found that it lay beneath an area of reinforced concrete which was stabilising nearby structures. Instead, the team had to dig a secondary access hole, allowing them to replace the section of pipe. The repair was successful and a reduction in consumption was seen immediately.

Source for Business then began liaising with the water wholesaler in order to agree a leak allowance so that Unite Students were not left out of pocket for a leak that was not their fault. This proved to be a lengthy process that saw Source for Business successfully challenge the wholesaler’s original provision and to agree an allowance of £49,200 – a positive result for Unite Students.

Following the resolution of both the repair and the leak allowance, Source for Business have worked with Ignite Energy to develop a step by step action list that will lead to any future consumption concerns being identified at an early stage. These discussions have also led to water efficiency advice being given to all sites which will help lead to reduced consumption and lower bills across Unite Students’ portfolio of 140 properties in 28 university cities in England and Scotland.

“The team from Source for Business worked with a range of stakeholders to co-ordinate this challenging job. They showed high levels of professionalism and determination to fix a technically difficult leak under increasingly challenging conditions, working through the night in sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow to safely and quickly resolve it,” said James Tiernan, Group Energy and Environment Manager at Unite Students.
“I was impressed that the leak detection team continued working during the Beast from the East and this was greatly appreciated, proving the severity of the leak. Overall, it was brilliant to work in partnership with Source for Business, despite having only been in a contract with them for a matter of weeks. Together, this leak was contained and rectified in a highly effective manner,” said Amy Hooper, Portfolio Team Manager at Ignite Energy.
“Repairing the leak and then resolving the leak allowance proved to be a lot more complicated than was first thought but our engineers and account managers worked extremely hard to achieve a good result for our customer. We pride ourselves on working in partnership with our customers and we’re looking forward to using our value added services to help Unite Students to use water more efficiently, saving time and money as a result,” said Richard Stanbrook, director of Source for Business.