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Drought highlights need for water industry to invest in training, warns DTL

Drought highlights need for water industry to invest in training, warns DTL

13 August 2018

The summer heatwave has underlined the issue of leaking water mains and the need for the water industry to invest more in its workforce, says Develop Training Limited (DTL), a leading provider to the utilities.

As temperatures soared through June and July, news of the first hosepipe ban came just a few weeks after Thames Water was fined a record £20 million for failing to tackle the leakage issue. At the end of July, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he would call chief executives of water companies that missed their leakage targets to a meeting to discuss how they would tackle the issue.

Government pressure

Chris Wood, Chief Executive of DTL, said: “Water companies are under pressure from the government to get to grips with leaks, and one way they can do that is by investing more in training. We have a skills shortage in the utilities and construction sectors that is largely due to years of under investment, and that has to change because the country’s infrastructure is genuinely at risk.”

Specialist water leakage training offered by DTL

DTL is one of only a few companies equipped to deliver the specialist training necessary. It has a ‘live’ water leakage training facility at its Burn Hall training centre in York, used for training operatives to identify water leaks on an operational water system. [The leakage bed was recently used to provide specialist training for around 80 Yorkshire Water operatives.]

Ofwat issue leakage targets

Mr Wood pointed out that the water regulator Ofwat had set a target of cutting leaks by 15 per cent before 2025.

Water companies are not only at risk of fines, he warned: “They may suffer reputational damage as consumers get fed up of paying their bills while being banned from using their hosepipes when they can see water leaking out of the ground.”

He cited a newspaper report that the water company which placed the hosepipe ban on customers in the northwest was losing 133 litres per household per day because of leaks.

Investing in more practical training is key

“Investing more in practical training will ensure that the existing workforce has all the skills necessary to deal with leaks as well as attracting the next generation of skilled operatives through apprenticeships,” added Mr Wood.

Meanwhile, as the drought continues, some water companies are resorting to extraordinary measures. Anglian Water is using drones to spot leaks from the air while United Utilities has employed a Cocker Spaniel called Snipe to find underground leaks by sniffing for chlorine.

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