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Heatwave disrupts water supply: what are your rights?

Find out how to claim compensation and access alternative water supplies

A number of burst pipes have been reported across the country, leaving some households without water during the heatwave.

Areas such as Eaglescliffe in County Durham, King's Lynn, Kingston and the Isle of Sheppey have all experienced supply water supply problems. 

Water providers are concerned that increased demand for water could exceed supply during the hot weather and have urged people to keep water use down.

If your water supply has been affected, you do have rights to an alternative supply of water and could be entitled to compensation from your provider. Here we explain your rights and how to seek redress.

Where can I access water?

Woman drinking a bottle of water

If your water supply is cut off, your water company must tell you:

  • that the supply has been interrupted or cut off
  • where to get an alternative supply of water
  • when the supply will be fixed
  • the phone number where you can get more information

If you have no water supply for more than 12 hours, your water company should give you an alternative supply, such as bottled water or put a mobile water tank near your home.

Your water company should also give you at least 10 litres of water per person within the first 24 hours, then continue that supply until your water is turned back on.

If you need a constant water supply for medical reasons, contact your water company.

All suppliers should keep a register of their customers who may need extra help when their water supply stops.

Am I entitled to compensation?

Whether you can claim compensation depends on how long you're without water for.

In the event of a burst pipe, your water company should turn supplies back on within 12 hours of knowing about the problem. If it's a larger 'strategic' water main that's burst, it has to fix it within 48 hours.

If your water supply isn’t restored by the time the company says it will be, you're usually entitled to £20 compensation for the first 24 hours you're without water.

From there, you should get an extra £10 for each further 24-hour period you’re without running water.

If you don’t get sent this compensation within 20 working days, you can claim a further £20.

There are occasionally circumstances when your water company doesn’t have to pay compensation. For example, if there was severe weather that prevented it  meeting its usual standards or its staff are striking. 

How to make a compensation claim

Some compensation will be paid automatically, either as a payment to you or as money credited to your water account.

But not all companies do this and you might have to make a claim in writing. You have three months from the date of the incident to do this.

If you're unsure, get in touch with your water company about how to make a claim.

What are my rights in a drought?

Watering the base of a plant with a rose-tipped watering can

The UK has experienced lower levels of rainfall than normal in recent months, which means water companies may struggle to meet the high demand for water during hot weather.

Water companies are urging households to limit their use to ensure demand doesn't exceed supply. You may also notice a lower water pressure than normal as providers try to keep up with demand.

In the event of a drought, water companies have to pay compensation if essential household water supplies (for purposes such as cooking, washing, drinking and flushing the toilet) are interrupted.

It doesn't have to pay if water supplies for uses such as watering the garden, car washing or filling a pool are affected.

Companies should pay customers £10 for each day (or part day) that the water supply is interrupted or cut off. The maximum compensation you can get is equal to the company’s average household bill for the previous year. But companies don’t have to pay if Ofwat, the water regulator for England and Wales, decides the circumstances are so exceptional it would be unreasonable to expect the company to avoid the interruption.

You can find out more about your water rights under Ofwat's Guaranteed Standards Scheme.

Tips for reducing water

Thames Water shared some tips with us on how to reduce your water use over the summer months.

  • Swap your hose for a watering can - a sprinkler can use as much water in half an hour as the average family of four uses in a whole day. A watering can should be much more economical than a garden hose or sprinkler.
  • Don’t water when the sun’s out - to avoid water evaporating, try watering your plants early in the morning instead.
  • Take shorter showers - a shower uses around 10 litres of water a minute, Thames Water told us, meaning a 10-minute shower can use 100 litres of water. If a family of four reduced their shower time by just one minute, they could save up to £45 on metered water bills and a further £52 on energy bills every year.
  • Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth - a running tap uses, on average, six to eight litres of water a minute. Turning it off is a simple way to reduce your water waste.

Find out more: how to stay cool without air conditioning