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In the first of a three-part series, Mark Taylor of Water Plus, the UK’s largest water retailer, outlines the impact of the water market changes and the steps farmers can take to keep costs low, particularly during the cold winter months.
In April 2017, the way farmers and landowners pay for their water and wastewater changed. New market regulations split the industry into wholesalers and retailers, which meant you could choose a supplier for your water and wastewater services.
The change has brought additional benefits for agricultural business owners, such as access to more advice and information, the potential for lower bills and more focused customer service.
However, there’s also been confusion about where the responsibility lies when a water issue occurs that needs fixing.
Under the new regulations, wholesalers such as Severn Trent, provide water to farm sites through their networks and take wastewater away.
Retailers, like Water Plus, are focused on billing and providing other account management services for customers.
Remember, you are responsible for paying for all water supplied to your farm – even if some of that water is lost through leaks from pipes on your land.
You are also responsible for identifying and organising the repair of all supply pipes from the point of the water meter, within the boundaries of your land, just like homeowners.
If you think you may have a leak, Water Plus can provide you with advice on what to do and also offer a leak detect and repair service through a number of approved service providers.
Should a leak or problem occur on the main networks or supply pipes outside of your boundaries, then the wholesaler remains responsible for repairing these.
There are several simple steps which can help you avoid the issues associated with prolonged leaks:
- Take regular meter readings: A spike in water usage can be the first sign of a leak on the property, so meter checks should be performed often. Providing regular meter readings to your retailer also means your bills will be kept up to date and not based on estimates.
- If you’re not sure where to find your water meter, it’s worth looking at the end of your farm track, towards the nearest main road or access road.
- Fix every leak: Even the smallest drops can quickly add up and increase your costs. Dripping taps or hosepipes can waste thousands of litres per year, so ensure that any on your property are fixed promptly to minimise wastage.
- Check the plumbing: Pipes should be checked regularly for any leakage or other malfunctions. The area around piping can also provide several telltale leakage signs, such as unusually damp or lush ground. Reduced vegetation – indicating an insufficient water supply in a particular area – could also point to a leak somewhere on the property.
- Inspect your ball-valves: Damaged or incorrectly set ball-valves can lead to drinking troughs overflowing, meaning that hundreds of litres of water could be wasted. Inspect these regularly, adjust to lower the float if needed, and promptly replace any faulty parts.
Water is the lifeblood of day-to-day agricultural operations, and so it’s vital to know exactly what you’re paying for, as well as how costs can be kept down.
Remember, if you’re unsure of your responsibilities regarding your water supply or want more advice on water use on your farmland, extra steps to take during winter when it comes to your water pipes or how to spot signs of a leak, go to our special Water Plus website area for farmers.