Failure of Water Infrastructure or Loss of Drinking Water


Water and the supply of water is vital for us all, it’s a service that we all expect to be there whenever we need to turn our tap on or flush our toilet. 

It is an essential service that we all need, it’s not as simple as just being able to turn the tap on to fill a glass of water. For some people who are vulnerable and may have dependencies from a health perspective its essential.

We mustn’t forget that if we lose out water supply we may not be able to flush our toilets, so it really does impact our daily routine.  Whilst across the country we enjoy a green and pleasant land, we must remember that water is a precious resource that many countries do not experience as readily as we do. Climate change is creating more extremes in weather and drought conditions across the globe, which impacts our key resource – water.    

Interesting Facts

  • Health guidelines state we should all drink about 2 litres of water per day.  This keeps us hydrated.  An easy way to remember this is 6 to 8 cups a day. 
  • On average each person uses 139 litres of water per day.

Local Risk Rating

Failure of Water Infrastructure or Loss of Drinking Water is assessed as Medium risk on our Community Risk Register. Take a look at the table shown in What is Risk? to understand why.

  • Impact: Moderate (3)
  • Likelihood: Medium Low (2)
  • Rating: Medium

What is it?

There could be several reasons why we don’t have water coming out of our taps. 

  1. There could be a local burst pipe and if the water escapes, then pressure in the local pipework drops. This means if you are on higher ground there may be insufficient pressure to force the water out from your tap. The demand might simply outstrip supply in areas of dense population.
  2. Drought – we all use more water when we have hot weather, extra showers, those paddling pools and watering our gardens all pull on that resource. This is something the water companies call supply and demand. 
  3. The land around us also contracts and expands as we have droughts and heavy rainfall. This movement in the ground can cause pipe breakages. Winter frosts can cause bursts where the ground freezes and then warms up. 
  4. Lastly, let us not forget flooding and back to our toilets.  If water tables are high from heavy rainfall and rivers overflowing, we may find that we have difficulty flushing our toilets. 
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Impacts of losing our water supply

  • People who are vulnerable are no longer independent. They can’t pop their kettle on for a cup of tea as they have no water, and they can’t walk to a location where a water company provides bottled water.  Be aware of those around you that may be vulnerable, and if you are picking up water for yourself why not pick a bottle up for your neighbour. 
  • Health – many people in our society are dependent on water for health reasons such as skin ailments and dialysis. Without a regular water supply these conditions can have real health implications and lead to hospitalisation or increased risk to their heath. 
  • Fire Service – we need water for our fire services to attend and put out any fires. 
  • Health Service – water is essential for our National Health Services and associated health and social care.
  • Schools and Education – a reduction in the supply of water forces many schools and colleges to close. 

This list is not exhaustive and I’m sure you can think of many more areas of our society that are impacted by the loss of water as a service. Much like power or gas it is an essential service for us, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.   

What are we doing about this as an LRF? 

We have a Wiltshire and Swindon Water Supply Disruption Plan and all our water providers have plans in place of what they will do to keep you either in supply of water or make alternative arrangements. These alternative arrangements may be to arrange water distribution points, this involves going to a designated area in your locality to collect bottled water. If you are unable to reach a distribution point due to mobility issues, water companies have a Priority Services Register that they can sign you up to, too ensure water is delivered to you.

Find out who your water supplier is and give them a ring, they will happily add you to the Priority Service Register for vulnerable people (in general North Wiltshire/Swindon is Thames Water and Central and South Wiltshire is Wessex Water).

What can you do?

There’s a number of things you could do, these include:

  • Be prepared - have the telephone number of you water company easily to hand so you can make that call. All water companies have a 24-hour operation call line. 
  • Take a look at your local water company’s website.  You will be able to search on your post code and see if there is anything going on in your area. Notifications will show on the website of what is going on in your area. 
  • It sounds basic but always keep your kettle full, this way you will always be able to make yourself a hot drink. As part of your routine, keep a freshly filled bottle of water handy. 
  • Keeping some water readily available is essential for those families that may be feeding a baby formula milk.     
  • Some houses have a cold-water tank located in the loft. This will allow you some water for a short period of time in an outage – ensure this is used only for critical purposes.

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