Keeping our water pipes in tip-top condition

With over 26,000 miles of water pipes serving around seven million customers throughout the North West, our teams work around the clock to keep taps flowing with great water.

Over time, mineral deposits can build up inside the pipes which, if disturbed can sometimes give a yellow or brown tint to the water.  Across our region we’re carrying out an extensive programme of work to refresh, clean or replace water pipes which will help us continue to provide high quality water. We carefully plan to make sure we use as little water as possible during the cleaning work.

When we’re carrying out work you will receive a letter, card, email or text message with further details of when we’ll be in your area and how this may affect you. 

Royal Mail delays: We're aware that, in some areas, Royal Mail transportation and sorting office delays are impacting the delivery of cards arriving before the work begins. We're really sorry if this affects you and our planning team are sending out the communications as quickly as possible once the programme is confirmed to try and allow for any delays through the postal system.

What will the work involve?

We use a variety of different methods to clean or refurbish the pipes. The approach is dependent on the pipe material or the amount of minerals that have built up and settled so we can work to remove it. One approach involves opening fire hydrants at specific locations and carefully controlling the release of water, using as little as possible, to flush out and remove the natural sediment. We'll carry out initial surveys and investigations to check valves and hydrants operate effectively. There's further information on the different methods we use in the drop down section below. Our cleaning work usually takes place at night, and in most instances you may not even notice we're there.  Our team will do all they can to minimise any noise or disruption and make sure your water supply is unaffected.

How this may affect you

The majority of our work will not require your water to be turned off, but if necessary we'll provide advance notice by letter or card and will always aim to keep the duration to an absolute minimum. You may find that during the work your tap water temporarily reduces in pressure, or after the work takes place it may appear a little discoloured. This is nothing to worry about and will quickly return to normal.

If you do experience discoloured water it's quite easy to resolve and we have further advice  to get your water back to normal again. If you're on a meter, don't worry, the process to help the water clear would normally cost no more than 10 pence.

Where are we currently working?

From week commencing Sunday 5 February our teams will be working to clean water pipes in the following areas: Allerdale, Bolton, Hyndburn, Macclesfield, Oldham, Rossendale, Stockport and Tameside.

The work usually takes place between 11pm until 5.30am the following morning. Depending on the method, weather conditions or the length of pipe on that particular area of the network it may take just a couple of nights, or for larger areas it could take between two to four weeks to complete. Work does not take place on Friday or Saturday evenings and we'll send out letters, cards or emails to let you know when we're planning to refresh or clean the pipes that help us supply your water.

We're also working in a number of areas within Audlem, Liverpool, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport and Whitchurch to replace water pipes. You can find further information on our water pipe replacement projects here.

Thank you for your patience while our teams work to provide even cleaner tap water for your area. If you have any further queries about our work please get in touch on 0345 672 3723  quoting the project number from the letter, email or card you have received. We’ll be happy to help.

Looking after the water in your home

It's our job to get the water from it's natural source and safely to your home but there are things you can do to ensure that the water you drink, cook with and wash in is of the very best quality. You can find out more about looking after the water in your home.

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  • Our work begins with collecting water samples from specific points along our pipe network.  This involves opening valves or hydrants and filling sample bottles to help us monitor water quality and plan our future work effectively.  This will also help us to determine the most appropriate cleaning or refurbishment technique.

    We’ll also collect water samples along the network following our refurbishment or cleaning work taking place to ensure this has resulted in water quality improvements.


  • In some areas we’ll be replacing entire sections of water pipe.  We use a variety of construction methods, but in most instances this involves inserting new smaller diameter pipe inside the existing older pipe – a method known as slip lining which is quicker and less disruptive to the community and road users.

    In some areas we may need to completely remove sections of old pipe and replace with new pipe – a method known as open cut.  Unfortunately this can be more disruptive as we’ll need to open up larger areas of the ground so we can lay the new pipe, which may need traffic management or temporary road closures.


  • This work often takes place over night when there is less demand for water.  It involves using high pressure water jetting or opening hydrants to flush the pipes and remove the mineral deposits from the pipe network. As this is less disruptive and much quicker we can clean larger areas of our network.

  • We may use another method to clean the pipes which involves taking a section of pipe out of use and passing high pressure jets of air through to help remove mineral deposits. This may require interruptions to water supplies, but we’ll always give prior notification to any customers before any work takes place to provide the date and time when the water would need to be temporarily turned off. 

Advice to help if your water is discoloured

We’re really sorry if you experience any changes to the colour of your water. You can find advice on how to get things back to normal using the link below. 

Find out more