The importance of resilience – from simply being prepared to responding and recovering – is embedded in all of our activities. We have a comprehensive set of emergency plans to ensure we are prepared for and can respond to an incident and that our services remain resilient. To ensure our staff are ready to respond, we continue to develop our training and exercising as part of a comprehensive in-house programme for those likely to be involved in an emergency.
In 2017 we launched our Anglian Water Force campaign to increase the number of volunteers we can call on to help colleagues and customers during an incident. As a result, we now have more than 700 employees across Anglian Water and partner organisations that are prepared to be involved in incident response. Our Incident Support Managers and our two Customer Support Units make it easier to engage and support a wide variety of customers. In the 2017/18 we have deployed the Customer Support Units more than 75 times, helping with everyday events and education in addition to incident management. We remain committed to reducing leakage as part of our drive to improve the region's resilience to drought and climate change. We have set ourselves the ambitious target of bringing down leakage by 10.4 per cent, or 20 Ml/d, to 172 Ml/d between 2015 and 2020. We achieved 183Ml/d in 2017/18 compared to 186Ml/d in 2016/17.
All of our preparation, contingency planning, training and investment paid dividends in early March, when the UK was hit by the weather system that became known as the ‘Beast from the East’. This brought heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures, which were followed by a rapid thaw. The extreme weather conditions led to a spike in bursts and leaks across our network and on many customers’ private pipework. This in turn caused a sudden surge in demand on our water treatment works, reaching levels similar to that seen on a hot summer’s day.
Despite the unprecedented nature of the challenge, our planning and investment over recent years meant services recovered quickly. Almost no business customers were significantly affected and only 163 homes were without water for more than 12 hours. Over 99.6 per cent of our customers experienced no impact at all, and where problems did occur they were quickly rectified.
This long-term preparation and rapid response led to Anglian Water being singled out for praise by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Defra, Therese Coffey MP. It also ensured our leakage and interruption to supply performance remained unaffected, despite the challenges. We keep a register of properties where customers may have persistently low water pressure. There is a programme of work to remove properties from the register, bringing the number down from 505 to 257 between 2015 and 2020.
Launched in 2010, our Keep it Clear programme aims to change the way people dispose of fats, oils, grease and unflushable items such as wipes and sanitary waste, to reduce sewer blockages and protect customers and the environment from the sewer flooding and pollution they can cause.
At a national level, we have been working with retailers to change the labelling on products that are likely to be flushed down toilets. As a result, many leading retailers have now agreed to place prominent, front-of-pack 'do not flush' logos and messages on the packaging of their own-brand products.
We are the first water company to trial thermal imaging drones to detect leaking water pipes. The technique could help reduce the cost and time taken to find leaks and pinpoint their location more precisely by using sensors and a camera to spot changes in soil temperature which could be caused by water escaping from the pipe.
The drones cover large distances in a short space of time, with anything picked up by the survey investigated further by a leakage technician on site. Repairs can then be carried out quicker and more precisely, meaning less digging, less money, less water lost and less disruption to customers.