Water company pulls out all the stops


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View recent newsWater company pulls out all the stops

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Santa was not the only person rushing around to ensure he got to everyone’s home in time for the festivities this Christmas.

Freezing temperatures were responsible for an increase in burst water mains across the Cambridge Water network, threatening to cut off the fresh water supply to thousands of homes just as people were preparing for the celebration of the year.

But dedicated Cambridge Water employees rallied round and worked through the night on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and on Boxing Day to ensure minimum disruption to the water supply for its 300,000 customers.

Like other water companies, the Cambridge Water network suffered as temperatures plummeted to a low of minus 10 degrees centigrade. As the ground freezes the earth expands and then contracts again as it thaws. This causes the pipes to move and increases the risk of burst mains, with 11 significant failures being recorded over the three day period.

A strategic 14 inch diameter water main burst in Pidley on Christmas Eve. This was followed by a burst on a 12 inch main at Over Fen on Christmas Day and further one on an eight inch main in Warboys on Boxing Day.

Instead of allowing the bursts to flatten customers’ supplies, water was quickly rezoned around the problem areas while employees worked around the clock to repair the pipes. While more than 300 customers were affected as a result of these bursts, all water supplies were restored within the recommended time.

Cambridge Water’s managing director, Stephen Kay, said: “Emergency planning, combined with the hard work of our staff meant that when our customers turned on their tap over the festive period, water was available as usual despite the very unusual conditions.”

The company was also unstinting in its efforts to detect water leaks with employees taking on the challenge of seeking out leaks during the Bank Holiday period.

Mr Kay added: “Our customers demand good value for their money and, with an average annual bill of just £114 for drinking water, we believe we do our best to provide this at all times.

“In an ideal world many of the pipes that burst would be replaced and our long-term aim is to increase the length of water main we renew each year to keep bursts and disruption to a minimum.  However, in the current economic climate we need to balance this aim with the need to keep customers’ bills as low as possible. In the short term we may have to deal with increasing numbers of mains failures made worse by the exceptional weather. 

“We cannot perform miracles but I hope our actions over the festive period demonstrate that we will always try and make the best judgements possible for the benefit of all our customers – no matter when or where they need us.”

Cambridge Water also made more than 20 courtesy calls at the request of the emergency services and concerned neighbours to turn off water supplies at unoccupied properties where the pipes had got too cold and burst.

Mr Kay added: “Internal pipework is the responsibility of the homeowner and not Cambridge Water.

“While we are always keen to help wherever we can in an emergency, customers who are suffering with frozen or burst pipes should seek the help and advice of an approved plumber.”

During the cold weather customers can help protect their water pipes by insulating exposed pipework, ensuring their house is regularly heated during a cold spell, particularly if left unoccupied, and knowing where their stoptaps are and how to turn them off in an emergency.

Further details on how to prepare for frozen pipes and what to do if a pipe bursts are available online at www.cambridge-water.co.uk.


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