Is the current news item about leaking water pipes this year’s red herring? It is technically impossible to maintain a leakage-free water distribution system.
Ofwat has been imposing ever harsher targets on the water companies in England and Wales to reduce leakage since privatisation in 1989, for which consumers have paid dearly for little return.
Despite this pressure, in 2009/10, the estimated annual leakage in England and Wales was 3.3bn litres. At 1.3bn litres it seems to me France is really doing pretty well, particularly taking into account the far greater surface area of France and the higher population served, and hence the greater length of pipework to be maintained.
It is also worth looking at the numbers quoted. In 2012 the average price paid for potable tap water in France was e2/m3. On this basis the “lost” 1.3bn litres of water would have cost, at retail prices, €2.6 million a year. The actual cost of treatment would have been quite a bit less.
If it is going to cost €2 billion a year to stop this leakage, nearly 1000 times more, it would seem to make very good economic sense to leave things as they are.
Ian Halliday, Cantal