The water company ordering a hosepipe ban on 7m households in the north-west of England has the second-worst record for leaking pipes of any supplier, industry data shows.
The temporary use ban being imposed by United Utilities from 5 August has led to calls for water firms to do more to tackle leakage on their networks.
United Utilities is second only to Thames Water for the amount of water lost en route to households, at 133 litres per property per day, well above the sector’s average of 121 litres.
The amount of water wasted through leaking pipes is almost identical to regional average daily use, which stands at 132 litres per customer.
The company is also the industry’s third-worst performer on the other main measurement, cubic metres of water leaked per kilometre per day.
Tony Juniper, the executive director for advocacy and campaigns at WWF-UK, said: “In the short-term one would hope the water companies, all of them, would be putting more effort into leakage reduction, the promotion of water efficient appliances from dishwashers to showers, and about communicating to consumers.”
He added the hosepipe ban was “another reminder that on climate change we’ve entered the era of consequences”.
United Utilities said it took water wastage seriously, and had 160 inspectors looking for leaks, as well as sniffer dogs and satellites.
“Reducing leaks is a top priority. We have cut leakage by half since the 1990s and are working hard to do even more,” a spokesperson said. The company met its leakage targets for 2016-17.
Around 2,900m litres a day, or 20% of all public water supply, is lost through leaks on suppliers’ networks.
The government was recently told by its infrastructure advisers to set a target for firms to halve leakage by 2050. The National Infrastructure Commission pointed out that reductions had largely stalled over the past decade and households needed to be encouraged to conserve more.
The average use per person nationally is 141 litres per day, down from 150 litres in 2000, but still well behind Europe’s best-performers, the Belgians and the Danes, who use about 115 litres per day.
One of United Utilities’ customers, the fracking firm Cuadrilla, has said residents would not be left short at its Lancashire operations, at a site between Blackpool and Preston.
The water industry has warned shale firms they could face a shortage of water supplies in some areas.
Cuadrilla has previously said that when fracking, which is now expected to take place in late August or early September, it would use up to 600 cubic metres of water per day.
A company spokesperson said: “It is highly unlikely that our operations would be affected by a water shortage, however estimates of predicted water demands have been supplied to United Utilities to allow them to assess their existing systems and any impacts on their wider network.”
Reservoir levels in the north-west fell 10-15% in June. The region has been more seriously affected by the warm, dry weather than other parts of the country, which were cushioned by a wet spring.