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Water Leaks – Who’s Responsible For The Bill?

Water leaks can be hugely expensive. There’s not only the cost of repairing any damage that caused, or was caused by the leak, there’s also the expense of the water itself. Even a moderate leak (1 litre per second) could cost your business around £55,000 a year and this is something that can cause problems when it comes to who is responsible for paying the bill.

When does water become your responsibility?

It is the responsibility of water wholesalers to get potable water to your premises. The wholesalers are responsible for the water in the mains pipe that is being transported from the treatment works towards business and domestic premises. If there is a leak in the mains pipe, it is clearly up to the wholesaler to repair the pipes and also cover the cost of any water lost through the leak.

As water is channelled from the mains towards business premises, it goes through a series of smaller communication pipes. Because the pipes are on public land and hold water destined for a number of customers, both the pipes and the water inside them are still the property of the wholesaler. If anything goes wrong, it is therefore up to the wholesaler to repair the damage and foot the bill for any lost water.

From the communication pipes, the water is pumped into supply pipes that go directly to the customer. As soon as the pipes enter the land owned or leased by your business, both the pipes and the water become your responsibility. The majority of businesses have water meters installed at the property boundary. This means that as soon as the water passes through the meter, you will be charged for it.

Consequently, if there is a leak at any point after water passes through your water meter, you are responsible for both the repair of the pipe and the payment for that metered water whether you use it or not, including leaks.


As a water retailer, we are charged by the wholesaler for all the water used by our customers. The wholesaler bases those charges on the amount of water passing through the meter and onto your premises. If you have a water leak, it is unfortunate, but you are responsible for payment.

It therefore makes good business sense to take steps to identify leaks as soon as they occur.

How to detect leaks

Underground leaks can go undetected for a long period of time before becoming obvious. The typical signs of long term leaks are damp, flooding or structural damage to your building. But if you wait for these signs to appear, you’ll have wasted a lot of water and money, and any repairs will probably be expensive and disruptive. It is therefore important to take measures that will enable you to detect leaks as early as possible.

Your water meter is an invaluable tool when it comes to checking for unexpectedly high levels of water consumption. By regularly checking the meter readings, you will have a good understanding of your organisation’s normal water use. If there is a sudden rise in usage that cannot be explained by business activity, there is a possibility that you may have a leak.

Another way of checking for possible leaks is to take meter readings at a time when there is no activity on your premises. First, check your meter reading, then switch off the water supply at the internal stopcock. After half an hour, check your meter reading again. If the second reading is greater than the first one, there is a leak.

What to do if you discover you have an underground leak

If you have an underground leak, we can help you with its detection and repair. By utilising specialist technology, we can help pinpoint the exact location of the leak, enabling a repair with minimum disruption and cost.

Leak assistance

While we cannot be held responsible for any water lost through leaks, we can offer leak assistance and in certain cases, help you claim a leak allowance. As an example, we were recently able to claim a £13,600 leak allowance for a St Albans school.