Disruption to domestic water supplies has risen by a fifth in two years and billions of litres of water are being lost through leaky pipework, according to a report.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) said companies needed to do much more to protect consumers and questioned how well-equipped they were to deal with extremes of weather that might lead to more burst pipes.
Consumers were left without water for an average of 13 minutes and 14 seconds in 2018/19, according to CCWater’s annual report.
That was a fall on the year before, when the figures were skewed by the widespread disruption during and after the Beast from the East and Storm Emma.
However, it was an increase of 21.8% on 2016/17.
In 2018/19, 3.16 billion litres of water were lost through leaks – a fall of 0.2% on the previous year.
CCWater said it was concerned that the industry’s slow overall progress on leaks could lessen individuals’ motivation to save water.
It also raised doubts that some companies would be able to achieve tougher targets set by regulator Ofwat as part of the current price-setting process for 2020 to 2025.
Bristol Water was the industry’s best performer, losing an average of 71 litres per property per day.
Thames Water, which reported the highest levels of leakage, lost 177 litres per property per day.
People’s consumption of water has increased for a fourth consecutive year, with the average person using 143 litres a day in 2018/19, up from 141 litres in the previous 12 months, the latest figures show.
CCWater senior policy manager Karen Gibbs said: “It’s clear that some companies still need to do much more when it comes to reducing supply interruptions and curbing leakage, which can damage people’s perceptions of the industry and deter them from saving water themselves.
“Being left without water causes huge inconvenience to people and can be extremely isolating for the most vulnerable customers.”
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman said: “While this report shows a disappointing overall increase in supply interruptions, Ofwat’s publication of draft determinations for 2020-2025 indicates that on the whole, water companies have strengthened their commitment to ensuring a continuity of supply for their customers.
“We welcome the reduction in water leakages, but we will continue to work closely with Ofwat to hold water companies to account for the delivery of secure and resilient water services, expecting them to deliver greater reductions in leakage long term.”