British businesses enjoy one of the world’s highest quality and most dependable mains water systems. Water supplies are so reliable that most people have never thought about what would happen if the water stops.
In this article, we look at business water interruption, particularly:
- What to do if your business water supply is interrupted.
- What compensation is available for water interruption.
- How to plan ahead to prevent future interruption.
How do business water interruptions occur?
Water interruptions in the UK are rare, with industry statistics indicating a 10 minute interruption per property per year as the national average.
And unlike other countries with more severe issues like endemic drought, the most common reason for an interruption in the UK comes from burst mains pipes.
But what should you do if your mains water supply to your commercial property unexpectedly stops?
Business water interruption – First steps
If your business water supply stops, the first thing to determine is whether the problem is within your building or the wider water network.
If the problem exists outside the boundary of your property, then it is the responsibility of the local water company.
Here are some quick questions to determine whether it is a mains water supply problem:
Are some taps working but not others? – If the issue only impacts some parts of your property, then it is not an issue with the mains water supply but an internal plumbing issue.
Are your stopcock valves open? – Where your property connects to the water mains, there is usually a stopcock valve controlling the water flow to your entire property. If the stopcock valve is closed, you won’t receive any water. Find the valve and ensure it is open; you can use this handy guide to find the stopcock valve.
If you believe the lack of water is due to the mains supply into your building, it’s time to contact your water supplier.
If it’s during working hours, contact your business water supplier in the first instance, and if it’s outside working hours, contact the local water company.
If you are a Twitter user, it is always worth checking if your supplier or local water company has announced a problem or interruption as this may be their first means of communication with the general public.
Here’s our handy guide to figuring out who is your water supplier.
Water interruption – What alternative supplies will be provided?
In the event of an unplanned domestic interruption in water supply, the local water company will provide potable water to affected homes. Ofwat requires that the water companies provide 10 litres of drinkable water per person per day in the case of an interrupted water supply.
These requirements for alternative water supplies only apply to homes and not to non-household properties like your business.
Water companies make it clear that commercial properties in their region should maintain their own business continuity plans in the event of a loss of water supply.
Business water interruption – where to get water?
The next steps in a water interruption depend on the specific circumstances of your business.
If your business needs can be met with bottled water, a trip to a supermarket for a crate of bottled water could be the best option.
Often businesses won’t be able to function without water, in which case temporary closure may be necessary.
If the continued operation is essential, it may be necessary to source an emergency water supply, which involves water tankers arriving at your property as a surrogate supply to your mains.
If you require an emergency water supply, we recommend contacting water contingency specialists water direct.
Business water interruption compensation
Ofwat allows for compensation when a water company does not meet its minimum service standards.
For most companies, the compensation available is immaterial. Here’s a summary of the payments due to business customers under the guaranteed standards regulation:
- Incidence of low water pressure – £25
- Unplanned water supply interruption – £50
- Unplanned water supply interruption (each subsequent 24hrs) – £25
As an example, if the water supply to your cafe is interrupted for a week, then you’ll be able to claim compensation of £170, which clearly won’t make much difference if you have to close your business.
On top of this, there are important exceptions to this compensation. Your business cannot claim compensation for water supply interruption caused by:
- Industrial action
- Severe weather
- Exceptional circumstances
The guaranteed standard regulations are only designed to kick-in when your water company is at fault.
To make a compensation claim, contact your business water supplier.
Business water interruption insurance claims
Losing the supply of mains water to your business can quickly have a significant financial impact through loss of sales.
A business interruption policy could be used to recover lost income from an interrupted water supply.
Business interruption insurance is a type of insurance designed to protect companies against financial loss from instances such as fires and floods.
Whether your insurance covers the loss of mains water supply will depend on the precise wording in your policy and the circumstances that led to the interruption.
Planning for business water interruption
Interruption in mains water can be disastrous for businesses, and in most cases, companies are unsupported when this does occur.
We strongly advise that businesses put in place plans and precautions in case of a business water interruption.
At AquaSwitch, we’ve published a comprehensive guide to preparing a water contingency plan.
Does a business water supplier switch affect water supply interruptions?
No, in business water, your chosen supplier does not operate the local water infrastructure; this is the role of the local water company.
If you choose to switch business water supplier, the quality and reliability of your water supply will not be affected.