Thames Water are fighting back against individuals and companies stealing water from roadside hydrants.
In the last three years, the company has collected over £450,000 in fines, and uncovered more than 200 offences of this nature. The perpetrators were prosecuted in court, or ordered to pay retrospective charges.
Two companies were also sanctioned with a £2,000 fine each for water theft in Oxfordshire.
Thames Water have cracked down on the widespread stealing of water supply within their service areas. The firm, with headquarters in Reading, has been on the lookout for people taking water from hydrants without paying or getting permission.
As population growth and climate change put a dent on the country’s resources, clamping down on illegal water theft is a crucial step in securing the water supply for the future.
The firm will be reinvesting the money they’ve recovered into delivering clean water and wastewater services to around fifteen million consumers across the Thames Valley and London areas.
Since 2017, up to four million litres of water have been taken by individuals and companies using unauthorised pipes for illegal tapping. Everything stolen was misidentified as leakage.
Illegal connections manager for Thames Water, Claire Rumens, stated that it is unfair on paying customers who are being asked to save water amid leakages, while others are obtaining additional water supply by illegal means.
Rumens further added that the firm has been redoubling its efforts in recent years to find illegal connections and stop the perpetrators. Not only did these efforts uncover offences but they also saved several million litres of water. She said that the company is willing to coordinate with erring parties before bringing the issue to court. However, if the perpetrators ignore the warning, Thames Water will not hesitate to enforce further action.
As of 2017, some 23 prosecutions and over 250 charges were made against unauthorised users. Those who were found to be using illegal standpipes were given a chance to pay retrospective fines, and failing to do so saw their case taken to court.
Two companies operating in Oxford and Banbury were found to be guilty of stealing water from roadside hydrants. Priority Plant Services, a plant hire firm, and Gibbs Surfacing, a paving contractor, admitted to water theft in Oxfordshire.
Both companies were ordered to pay over £2,000 each for the offence by Thames Water.
Priority Plant Services was found to have stolen water at a housing development at Hanwell Chase in Banbury.
Gibbs Surfacing committed their offence at the road junction between Cherwell Drive and Oxford Road in Oxford.
Illegal standpipes were used to connect to the water supply in both cases.
Unauthorised use of the water supply is treated as an illegal connection, and is therefore an offence that can incur charges according to law.
Priority Plant Services director Oliver Newton offered a guilty plea to eight offences under the Water Industry Act 1991. The firm’s case was heard at Oxford Magistrates’ Court. The charges included £1,300 in costs, a £1,000 fine, and £50 victim surcharge.
The pavement contractor Gibbs Surfacing also pleaded guilty during a court hearing for three charges under the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 and the Water Industry Act 1991. The case was heard at Swindon Magistrates’ Court, which ordered the contractor to pay £1,500 in fines. Additional sanctions included a £50 victim surcharge and £2,000 costs.
Thames Water is responsible for supplying clean water and wastewater treatment for customers across Greater London, the Thames Valley, Luton, Surrey, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Kent, and other parts of the UK.
The firm is the largest water services company in the UK and supplies about 2.6 billion litres of drinking water for its customers daily. It serves 15 million customers, which is around 27% of the country’s total population.
Some of the larger projects it has undertaken relating to water management infrastructure include the Lee Tunnel and the Thames Water Ring Main.