Thousands of homes could be without water on Christmas Day

Martin Lewis discusses water bills and water meters

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Thousands of homes across South-east England could spend Christmas without running water after freezing temperatures caused pipes to burst. Regional water companies have apologised for the disruption and are working to reconnect tens of thousands of people by the weekend in parts of Sussex, Kent, and Hampshire.

Firms suggested the rapid thaw of frozen pipes caused a rise in the number of bursts and leaks in the network of pipes underground, causing storage resevoir levels to drop after temperatures plunged below freezing.

South East Water has said it is “committed” to get water up and running for its customers by Christmas Day, while Southern Water says it is “working” to solve the issue but admitted many will be without water for “at least 48-hours”.

Southern Water said in a statement: “We are currently facing significant pressure on our water supply in parts of Hampshire, caused by a combination of factors including leaks resulting from the recent ‘freeze/thaw’ event.”

“We are working as hard as we can to solve this issue, tackling leaks and stabilising supply, but we must also make difficult decisions to reduce demand – in order to protect critical Hampshire infrastructure like hospitals.

“This is why we unfortunately have to restrict water supplies to some customers in parts of Hampshire… for a period of at least 48 hours.”

According to another supplier, South East Water, there was a triple increase in the number of bursts, and its chief executive David Hinton yesterday said roughly 5,000 properties were still affected.

Emergency bottles of water will be supplied around the region, with Southern Water offering to deliver bottled water straight to its “most vulnerable customers”.

Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, tweeted: “I’ve asked Southern Water to set up a bottled water station in Southampton – not acceptable that the closest one is the park and ride at Winchester.

“Appreciate the network is under extreme pressure, but residents reliant on public transport cannot get to Winchester tonight.”

The firm has set up three water stations around the region: one at Places Leisure in Eastleigh, another at South Winchester Park, and another at East Winchester Park.

David Hinton, Chief Executive of South East Water said: “Our teams are working flat out to find, fix and repair the leaks on our pipes but we’re asking customers to help too by checking their homes, businesses, empty properties, outside taps and troughs in any fields for leaks and get them repaired as soon as possible.

“Leaks within properties can cause extensive damage which can be costly to repair.”

Conservative MP Paul Holmes shared the Southern Water statement on his Twitter. People took the opportunity to criticise the firm.

In response to the statement, one user wrote: “Because they spend their profits in paying dividends to shareholders rather than reinvesting it in repairing and renewing infrastructure.

Another wrote: “This isn’t normal, we’re expected to live without running water for 2 days, in the 5th richest country in the world? The Government could be doing more to avoid this When is this expected to happen? I live in one of these postcodes, but haven’t had any comms from Southern water.”

But South East Water hasn’t been spared of the criticism. In Tumbridge Wells the BBC spoke to Hayley Stokes who was affected by water supply issues.

Ms Stokes said: “It’s ridiculous. Our water has gone off 23 times this year.”

The statements from the water companies come after a pipe burst in north London resulted in several homes being evacuated.

A water main burst on Saturday, which caused flooding half a metre deep in an area that was roughly 800 metres.

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