Water shortages have caused disruptions to production at Cadbury and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) as well as a number of other businesses across the country.
The sudden warm weather after last week’s cold snap has caused thawing water main pipes to burst, leaving businesses and thousands of homes without water in parts of London, the south east, Wales and the Midlands.
A number of water providers, including Thames Water and Severn Trent Water have reported both business and commercial properties have been affected by supply issues, and as of Tuesday morning some areas had been without water for more than two days.
Regulator Ofwat has criticised utility providers’ response to the ongoing shortage, and said water companies should have been more prepared.
Cadbury confirmed to SM it was affected by the water shortage but that “some production” continued overnight and it had sufficient product in stock. “The rest of our supply chain, including logistics, has operated as business as usual,” the firm said. It added that its water supplier, Severn Trent Water, had confirmed it was in process of restoring water across the Bournville site and employees would return to work from today.
JLR reportedly halted production at its Solihull plant, which employs 10,000 people, and had plans to close its Castle Bromwich site, which employs 3,000. The company has not yet responded to a request for comment.
In a statement Severn Trent Water said: “[We] worked with a handful of businesses that use a lot of water, such as JLR and Cadbury, to limit their usage during yesterday afternoon and evening. This allowed us to keep water supply on for our household customers and our vulnerable customers including hospitals in the area like the Queen Elizabeth, City and Birmingham Children’s Hospital.”
It added that all its customers in Birmingham and Arnold should now have water but that parts of Leicestershire were still without.
Rachel Fletcher, chief executive of Ofwat, said: “While the recent severe freeze and thaw have undoubtedly had an impact on pipes and infrastructure, this weather was forecast in advance. A number of water companies appear to have fallen well short on their forward planning and the quality of support and communication they’ve been providing, leaving some customers high and dry.”
In a speech last week, before the water supply problems struck, secretary of state for the environment Michael Gove said there were some concerns over how the water industry was growing. Because water companies are given regional monopolies over “the single most critical resource”, he said they have a “special responsibility” to the environment and customers.
Gove said: “Despite the undoubted gains in efficiency and investment since privatisation, the system is not working as well as it should. Some companies have been playing the system for the benefit of wealthy managers and owners, at the expense of consumers and the environment.”
Gove called for water companies to spend more on infrastructure investment, saying leakage was a “blot on the sector”, and they should do more to reduce water pollution and other environmental impacts.
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