Advice for people with water problems

With the return of the freezing conditions, which are forecast to last until Christmas, water bosses are issuing urgent advice to customers who may discover they have no water.

Thousands of customers across the North West are being affected because their own water supply pipe to their house is frozen. The problem is not affecting United Utilities’ water mains network – just customers’ own pipes.

United Utilities, which supplies water to seven million people in Cumbria , Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and parts of Cheshire, is being deluged with eight times the usual volume of phone calls from worried customers.

The company has called in extra staff to help handle the call volumes, but people may still be experiencing difficulties getting through.    

The problem is that the sub-zero temperatures have frozen the water inside the customers’ own water pipes, cutting off their water supply. The problem is not affecting the water supply network so there is little the company can do other than offer advice.

United Utilities’ Stuart Atkinson said: “Our operations centre is very busy at the moment with customers telling us that they have no water or frozen pipes. Unfortunately we are only able to offer our customers advice as this is a problem with their own private pipework and not our network.  We’re really sorry if people are struggling to get through to us, but there are things people can do to help themselves.”

United Utilities is issuing the following advice: -

- If you have no water, check whether the problem is affecting a couple of your neighbours before contacting United Utilities. A problem with the mains supply will affect large numbers of people, so if only you or a couple of your neighbours are affected the most likely cause is your own frozen water pipes.

- Thawing your pipes can take some time but it is possible to help yourself. Here’s how. First, locate your main stop tap. It is usually under the kitchen sink or in a utility room closest to where the water supply enters your property.

- Apply a hot water bottle to the pipe or use a hairdryer in short bursts. Please note you should never use a naked flame near the pipes.

- If you manage to thaw your pipes, you must insulate them with pipe lagging (or blankets as a temporary solution) to stop them freezing again.

- Keep the number of a good plumber handy.

- Leave the heating on low if you are going away for a few days over Christmas.

The website also contains details about the operation of your heating system while your pipework is frozen.  

Added Stuart: “We urge our customers to take this advice as we wouldn’t want anyone’s Christmas to be spoilt. The key thing is to make sure you insulate your pipes and keep your heating on. And of course, have the number of a good plumber to hand, who can help you if your pipes freeze or burst.”

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