London mayor calls situation ‘unacceptable’ after residents hit by burst mains and damaged pipes

Tens of thousands of homes in the UK are still without water after a thaw following recent freezing temperatures resulted in burst water mains and severely damaged pipes.

London and the south-east of England have been the hardest hit, with about 13,000 homes in Kent and Sussex and 5,000 homes in London without water. Thousands of properties in Wales are without a water supply, and parts of the Midlands, south-west England and Scotland are also affected.

Other areas have been left with limited supplies and low pressure and have been urged to use as little water as possible.

The industry regulator Ofwat accused water firms of falling “well short” and said it would be taking a “long, hard look at what has happened”.

“While the recent severe freeze and thaw have undoubtedly had an impact on pipes and infrastructure, this weather was forecast in advance, said the Ofwat chief executive, Rachel Fletcher. “A number of water companies appear to have fallen well short on their forward planning and the quality of support and communication they’ve been providing, leaving some customers high and dry.”

Some homes have been without water for four days. Several schools in London and Kent were closed on Monday because they could not guarantee running water. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called the water shortage “unacceptable”.

  • Thames Water said the number of homes affected was rapidly falling and was down to about 5,000 by Monday evening. The company said it would continue to offer bottled water to affected households and it had distributed almost 1m litres of water over the weekend.
  • South East Water set up a bottled water stations in Sussex and Kent, where 13,000 homes were affected.
  • Southern Water said it was repairing supplies to 5,000 homes in Sittingbourne, Kent, but there were still 900 homes without water in Hastings and interruptions to supplies in the Crawley area. Over the weekend it urged customers to “only use the water you absolutely must”.
  • South West Water said it was dealing with an unprecedented number of burst water mains and warned some customers that potable water may have a “noticeable taste”.
  • In Wales, about 3,500 customers were without water, according to Welsh Water.

Thousands of customers were without water in parts of Birmingham, the West Midlands and Staffordshire. Jaguar Land Rover, based in the West Midlands, stopped production to preserve the water supply for homes, hospitals and schools after a request from Severn Trent. Cadbury limited its production and sent some workers home.

Parts of the UK are still recovering from the effects of Storm Emma and recent freezing weather. About 100 schools were shut in Wales on Monday, while in Cumbria the RAF has been flying food, fuel and electric heaters to isolated communities that have been cut off for five days.

While temperatures increased in most places in the country over the weekend, yellow warnings for snow, rain and ice remained in place in Scotland.