Some years back Thames Water installed a new stop cock (at the bottom of a newly installed access tube) just outside my front gate and replaced the supply pipe that leads into my basement. This involved digging a trench through my front yard. It also eliminated an earlier stop cock that was in a hole just inside my front gate. It was explained that in future, I would be responsible for the pipe on my property. I seem to recall that the same job was done for every house in the street and the work was done under contract by Messrs Murphy.
Last July I was told that Thames Water would be installing a digital water meter and this too was done. It took only a few minutes and the guy told me that he had removed the old meter. Actually, I didn't know they had fitted a meter before. It was certainly never used for billing purposes. The new one won't be used for billing for two years more unless I ask them to do so.
In the last few days I have received hand delivered letters from Thames Water saying that they are looking for leaks in my area and they think I have one on my water supply pipe and inviting me to contact their "Customer Side Leakage Team" for them to carry out a free check. It says that in many cases they are able to offer a free repair providing "you meet our eligibility criteria".
Before responding to this invitation, I have conducted my own test by the simple expedient of closing off my own basement stop cock and reading the meter. This has shown that in one hour the meter has logged 28 litres of water despite none at all entering my house. Assuming the meter is not faulty, this means that a steady stream of water is leaking underground somewhere between the meter and my basement. As the supply pipe is the recently installed blue plastic pipe with no joints between the meter and my own pipe work, it is a fair bet that the leak is where the supply pipe is jointed to the meter itself.
I shall report further on how this case pans out but two things occur to me:
one is that everyone should take advantage of the two year grace peiod to check their meter readings and test that it does not tick over when your house stop cock is closed.
the other is to remember that because Thames Water's own stock cock/meters are under the footway (only for houses, not for flats I believe) they are susceptible to damage caused by vehicles driving on the footways. It wouldn't take much of a weight to be pressed down on one of their access tubes for it to shift it slightly while the supply pipes on either side of it would not be shifted. Only a slight movement is needed to spring a joint and there you have a leak. May be even a leak on both sides of the meter.
I think that every house, especially on Wightman Road where parking on the footway is obligatory, should be warned about this. I see that the paving is cracked and uneven also in ladder rung roads for the same reason. Here is a photo of the sort of thing that can cause damage of this kind:
I had a leak in the street, exactly where you suggest - I noticed that there was a permanent puddle there even if it hadn't been raining. When I reported it, it was fixed by Thames Water at their expense. But I don't know if it would have been added to my water bill as I'm not (yet) on a meter.
When my sister switched to metered water, her bill shot up to four times what it had been due to a leak under her garden. At the time she was still able to switch back within a grace period, but we will no longer have the choice. Although I agree with careful use of water, and do it anyway having been trained by a spell in a drought-ridden part of the US, I'm sceptical whether in the long run our bills will go down - once water meters are obligatory Im sure we will see the same kind of price rises as for other services.
On a side, but related, topic - I was in Finsbury Park yesterday and there is a huge pool of water on the grass opposite the Endymion Road/New River gate. It is higher than the level of the river, so can't be an overflow from there. This area is always boggy but the water seems to be gushing from somewhere at the moment. Any ideas - is there a leaking water main there, or is it some drainage system from higher up the hill?
I think the idea of testing the meter with the stop cock off in the property is a good one Dick, had not thought about this... Thanks
I can now follow up my earlier post. I have limited patience for calling telephones that are not answered and, after failing to get through to the telephone number in the letter that Thames Water pushed through my letter box, I found an e-mail address for the high-up person in whose name the letter was sent.
After a about a week, Thames Water (TW) telephoned me and we agreed that one of their "customer side" team would come on Monday 20th between 10am and noon. In the meantime, I conducted further tests myself. On 7th Feb I noticed that the water meter had been twisted into a new position and that the stop cock handle had been removed. This indicated that someone had been working on the case and this was confirmed by my test which showed that the earlier rate of leakage had been reduced from 28 litres per hour to only 3 or 4. This is, of course, still not satisfactory so I was interested to know what the TW person would find.
He duly appeared and explained what he needed to do - which would have been to turn off my house stop cock and then listen to the outside pipe using a kind of stethoscope. In the event it was much more dramatic because, no sooner than he had poked one of his implements down to the TW stop cock, something gave way and great rush of water poured out flooding partly into the gutter and partly down the New River Path and thence in to the river. The unfortunate technician was utterly nonplussed and quite unprepared for such an eventuality. It may not, of course, been his fault. Some enfeebeld part that was already defective and leaking may have given way when he tried to move it. He made desperate phone calls to higher authority and we were eventually assured that an emergency team would appear in an hour or two. In fact it was about four hours later that a truck and trailer appeared with a two man team, pneumatic drill, portable generator and a small submersible pump. In my innocence, I imagined that the water would be turned off for a few minutes at some nearby stop cock but no, this was not the favoured option - not least because the relevant stop cock is in the middle of the Wightman Road. It would be necessary to dig down to the plastic pipe supplying the meter. This was a terrible task partly because the water pipe is about two feet down but mostly because the pump they had could not keep up with the leak so the hole they dug was always full of water (and very cold water at that) and had to be baled out with a bucket.
After a few minutes with the pneumatic drill, the task was largely one of brawn and determination and, I am glad to say, that Lewis, the guy in charge and who did most of the work, was an excellent rebuttal to anyone who thinks that the British are workshy. This picture shows the moment, after an hour of digging, when the hole was deep enough for Lewis to reach the open end of the water pipe and clamp it off with a kind of latterday thumbscrew.
After that the job was quickly over. A completely new integral stopcock and meter housing was installed, connected and the hole roughly filled in and covered.
The following day, the spoil was removed, the hole filled and tamped to some inches below the surface and a day later the resurfacing team appeared and put the footway surface back as it should be.
I have tested the meter again and now it does not tick over when the house stop cock is off. This means the work is good and the new connections are sound. As I wrote this (on Thursday) the original TW customer-side technician came round to check that all is well. I was glad to see him but asked him not to touch anything. He was relieved that he hadn't got his P45 as he had feared.
Glad you got it sorted Dick.
I am having a smart water meter installed on 16th March and frankly I do worry about it - I live in a house conversion, ground floor, 3 flats in total in the house.
I have ventured into the cellar one day (never again - spiders brrrr) and noticed a lot of random pipes there. I have no idea how the pipes run in conversions and do not really want to pay for water someone else uses.
No idea where the stop cock is in here or even if I got one in the flat or is there one for the whole house.
I guess this is something to investigate and get my head round - to see if somehow I could do a test similar to the one you have done. 28 litres per hour is absolutely massive amount of water to be leaking anywhere.
It's now two years since Thames Water installed the new meter outside our house so we've been moved from a standard charge to a metered charge - I guess the same will apply to most properties in the area sooner or later.
We received a mysterious letter headed "final bill", and about a week later another letter with the new details and account number. If you use your online account to keep an eye on usage you'll need to add the new account number. When I tried to do this, I got an error message saying this wasn't possible but checking back on the main page, it had been added successfully.
Although they have remote access to the current reading on the smart meter, strangely the monthly DD is still a standard charge based on anticipated usage - the reading will be checked every 12 months and any discrepancy dealt with then. Apparently they aren't geared up to adjust the monthly payment based on actual usage, so bear in mind that if you use more water than expected (e.g. if there's a leak) you may end up with an extra payment to make at the end of the billing year.