West Cumbria/Copeland water quality

Improving the current water resources situation in West Cumbria is one of the biggest projects we are currently undertaking in the North West. When construction of our new water main is completed by 2022, the area will then receive its water from Thirlmere reservoir, rather than Ennerdale Water which we need to stop using due to its environmental importance to the area. 

Reducing the water we take from Ennerdale 

Until the new pipeline is up and running, we have to be very careful about the amount of water we take from Ennerdale so as not to endanger protected species whilst balancing the needs of the local community. We therefore made a commitment, following an agreement with the Environment Agency, that we would source 80 per cent of your water from Ennerdale Water and 20 per cent from local boreholes. 

A prolonged dry period was highlighted as the only time we would need to review whether we could continue to keep to that blend. Unfortunately, low rainfall over the previous few weeks has resulted in water levels in Ennerdale being lower than we’d like them to be. With the outlook showing a continued period of dry settled weather, we are required to take steps now to ensure you continue to receive water to your taps if the drier spell continues into the summer months.

Changing the blend of your tap water 

Therefore, we have changed the blend of the water that is supplied to West Cumbria by increasing the amount of water from the boreholes. This means the blend of your water will now be 50/50, rather than 80/20 as it is normally. We've written to all our customers who are affected by the change in blend, so if you haven't received a letter from us these changes do not affect your water supply.

Similar changes we’ve made to your tap water in the past have caused concern but we want to reassure you that your water will continue to be of the highest quality expected by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and will be safe to drink and use as normal. Borehole water undergoes the same rigorous treatment process as our other water sources such as lake water. 

We will continue to carry out routine testing of the water supply to ensure it meets the high water quality standards expected. During the current coronavirus restrictions, and to protect both our employees and customers, we’re currently increasing the number of tests from our service reservoirs rather than entering customers’ homes. This allows us to continue to monitor the quality of water whilst practising social distancing. 

Only making these changes for as long as is necessary

We will only supply water at this blend for the time it is absolutely necessary in relation to the water resources situation in West Cumbria. A period of rainfall would improve that position and we would not delay returning to your normal 80/20 blend as soon as we receive enough rain for water levels at Ennerdale to increase.

We would really appreciate your support during this time so together we can preserve water supplies to make sure everyone has what they need for their most essential needs and to protect the environment and wildlife which is so unique to West Cumbria. 

During the ongoing coronavirus situation, we’re all spending more time in our homes and gardens and as such, water usage has increased. Therefore, anything you can do to use water wisely at this time would be appreciated but please remember to continue to follow government advice around hygiene and hand washing to limit the spread of the virus. Small things such as turning off the tap when you brush your teeth and using a watering can instead of a sprinkler or hosepipe can make all the difference. You can find lots of hints and tips on how to save water where you can also order free items to help you reduce the amount of water used in the home.

As United Utilities has been identified as an essential service during the coronavirus, you will continue to see our key workers repairing leaks and bursts across the region. So if you spot any leaks when you are out and about, please let us know so we can fix them.

Further information

You can find more information about the work we’re doing to improve the water resources issues in West Cumbria here.

As always, being available to offer advice and support to our customers is our first priority which is why we’re pleased that we’ve been able to reorganise our teams to focus on giving you the best service possible during these difficult times. We have a dedicated team who will be able to answer your questions specifically about the supply arrangements in West Cumbria and you can contact them using our online form. If you include your phone number we’ll also call you back at a time to suit you. 

Our phone lines are still available but it’s likely you will wait a lot longer than normal when you call us to speak to a member of our team. However, if you do need to speak to us rather than using the dedicated online form please call 0800 912 7239. 

Thank you for your continued patience as we look to put in place a long term solution to the water resources issue in West Cumbria which should prevent us having to make changes to the water blend in the future.