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Go with the flow: United Utilities' leak-finding sniffer dogs and £817m investment

Snipe, the UK's first leakage dog.
Snipe, the UK's first leakage dog.
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United Utilities, which supplies seven million people in the North West with water, has pumped £817m in the region's pipes, reservoirs, and treatment works as part of their record-breaking five-year investment programme totalling £3.8bn.


On top of investment, revealed in the firm's annual results, the company has also met leakage targets for 10 consecutive years and cut leakage by half since the 1990s, employing a range of techniques to pinpoint leaks including satellite imagery and sniffer dogs like Snipe, the UK's first leakage dog.

Behind only perennial favourites, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, in terms of brand popularity in the region, United Utilities have rolled out a new project called Systems Thinking to help them manage their huge, geographically complex networks as one smart integrated system through the use of advanced technology, data management, and energy efficiency.

“We continue to put customers first," said Steve Mogford, Chief Executive Officer of the company, which has seen customer complaints drop by a third in two years and which has invested an additional £250m into improving the long term resilience of the region’s water network. “Systems Thinking is delivering better service, greater resilience, and improved efficiency."

Ranked as the best UK water company in the latest quarterly customer survey by regulator Ofwat, annual assessments carried out by the Environment Agency have also cemented United Utilites' status as an industry leader, as well as the first to train a sniffer dog to specifically help pinpoint problem pipes in rural areas where the water does not always show on the surface.

Operating in some of the most deprived areas of the UK, United Utilities also supports customers in financial hardship, with more than 100,000 people now supported on an affordability schemes and more than 50,000 receiving tailored assistance through their priority services scheme.

“While our industry faces many challenges, we intend to rise to all of them, building on the trust our customers place on us to provide an outstanding service, invest wisely to deliver additional benefits and offer exceptional value for money," Steve added. "This philosophy is central to our strategy and will help deliver long term value for customers, the environment, and for shareholders.”