By Lauren Howells

Water regulator Ofwat has announced that it will be conducting a review of water companies handling of the supply issues, that some people experienced during the recent severe weather.

‘Big thaw’ caused pipes to burst and leak 

Early last week, the BBC reported that the ‘big thaw’, which followed the bitterly cold weather brought by the “Beast from the East”, had resulted in thousands of UK homes being without water, due to pipes bursting and leaking as they were thawing.

At the time, Ofwat issued a statement pointing out that the weather had been forecast in advance and that a number of water companies appeared to have “fallen well short” on their forward planning and the quality of support and communication they had been providing. The regulator accused the water companies involved of leaving some of their customers “high and dry”. 

Over 20,000 homes in London were affected

Images in the news showed some water companies handing out bottled water.

According to the BBC, over 20,000 homes in London were affected, with some water suppliers advising customers to “take short showers” where possible.

Thousands of houses in Wales were also said to have been affected.  

Water companies to be investigated over water supply issues

Ofwat aiming to establish what caused the water supply issues 

Ofwat has said that it will aim to establish what caused the water supply issues, as well as evaluating how prepared the water companies were in the run-up to the cold weather.

The quality of support they provided to their customers will also be looked at and the way the companies communicated the issues to homes and businesses that had been affected, examined. 

“Adequacy of compensation” will also be considered

The regulator has also said that it will “consider the adequacy of the compensation” that those affected by the issues are being offered.  

Ofwat says that once the findings of the review have been published, it will consider whether any “further regulatory action” is needed. This may be the case if, for example, a company has breached any of its statutory obligations. 

“…we are aiming to get to the bottom of why this happened…”

Ofwat Chief Executive, Rachel Fletcher said:

“To be left without a vital public service like water – in some cases for several days – is deeply distressing, particularly for those in vulnerable circumstances. Through this review, we are aiming to get to the bottom of why this happened and to identify what lessons can be learned so customers experience minimum disruption in these kinds of circumstances in future.”

 Rachel Fletcher also pointed out that water companies should ensure that compensation “adequately reflects” the scale of inconvenience and distress that had been caused to customers and said that it should be “fair, fast and free from hassle”.

 Water companies must compensate customers who do not have a water supply for a certain period of time. A full list of “minimum payment amounts” can be found on Ofwat’s website.

Thames Water has announced the details of its compensation scheme and has said it will compensate affected customers “over and above” the statutory minimum. Thames Water customers who were affected for between 4 and 12 hours will receive £30, with as much as £150 for those affected for up to 72 hours.  

There is no need for customers to claim compensation, as the water companies should be writing to those involved, soon.