Water Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Water Liaison Group (WB 18)

Proposed amendment to Section 57 of the Water Industry Act 1991

I am writing to you in my capacity as chair of the Water Liaison Group. The Water Liaison Group’s purpose is to try and resolve the ongoing issues and difficulties arising from a need for the economic and effective installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems. The Group is made up of bodies representing the fire sprinkler industry, the UK National and European Fire Sprinkler Networks, Fire & Rescue Authorities, Scottish Building Standards, Water UK and water companies.

There is a currently a significant increase in the number of domestic and residential sprinkler systems in the UK This is predicted to continue particularly in Wales with The requirement to install sprinklers in all new residential premises contained within the Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011. As a result of this increase in activity there is also a need for clarity about the status of the water used to supply sprinkler systems and clear policies on connection policy from water undertakers.

In light of this t he Water Liaison Group has recently revised its Protocol Document which is designed to provide guidance on best practice with regards to policies on the provision of water for fire sprinkler installations. Within the Protocol Document it is made clear that all parties believe that the suggested amendment to Section 57 is essential to support the aspirations of the Water liaison Group . I have included the appropriate extract from the Protocol below for information.

"Proposed amendments to Section 57 the Water Industry Act 1991 re-defining the scope of water for fire fighting to include fire sprinkler connections, are supported by water companies and by the fire sprinkler industry."

The Water Liaison Group would like to ask you to consider a proposal to make changes to the Water Industry Act (WIA) (1991) during the consultation process for on Draft Floods and Water Management Bill consultation process.

To this end I outline in the attachment to this letter a proposed change to Section 57 on the provision of water for firefighting.

Section 57 covers the duty to provide water for firefighting and currently this duty could be interpreted as limited solely to providing water from designated fire hydrants. Increasingly householders are seeing the benefit of installing sprinkler systems , which will lead to significant reductions in fire deaths and injuries if they could be more widely used. Under the current legislation , such supplies to such systems are classified as non-domestic supplies and are subject to agreement of terms and conditions on a case by case basis.

A n a mendme n t of section 57 to include as firefighting water that taken from service pipes connected to a sprinkler system , will clarify the status of connections to the water system for automatic fire sprinkler purposes. The current ambiguity i s a barrier to the wider use of sprinkler systems. At this stage I submit these proposals for your consideration and comme nt. Should there be merit in the s e proposal s , I understand that more detailed discussions will be needed followed by the statutory impact assessments required.

We accept that our proposals will be subject to review as part of the drafting process and that this may result in some changes in wording, however we commend the m to you for further consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you during the formal consultation process.


There are currently difficulties in the appropriate application of the Water Industry Act 1991 (as amended) and the Regulations made thereunder in relation to the provision and use of sprinkler systems and other fixed fire fighting installations such as hose reels, wet risers etc. Whilst such fire fighting systems have been in common use since the last quarter of the 19 th century there has always been a lack of legislative clarity regarding their legal status and the duties and responsibilities associated with their installation and use.

Rec ent and ongoing developments in the wider use of sprinklers in dwellings and residential premises and moves towards legislation requiring their installation in certain categories of premises , ha ve further highlighted that the issues are not adequately covered by current water industry legislation.

Evidence suggests that where fire sprinkler systems have been fitted, fire deaths have almost been eliminated, fire injuries reduced by over 80%, and a significant improvement in fire fighter safety achieved . In addition, property damage has been reduced by over 80% and where sprinklers are fitted there is a considerable reduction in the volume of water taken from service mains by the fire and rescue service for fire fighting, less damage to the environment (both in respect of the products of combustion liberated and in the volume of contaminated water generated) and the burden of fire on society is lessened.

However, unless such systems can be accommodated within the definition of ‘water taken for the purposes of fighting fires via a service pipe’, the only categorisation of such supplies is, by default, ‘water for non-domestic purposes’ and the supply of water for this category of use carries with it a degree of subservience or certainly a lesser priority to the use for domestic purposes. We do note that the definition of water for domestic purposes has changed over the last 70 years as society changes and new devices (such as Jacuzzi Baths) become more common.

The current situation can mean that some of the conditions of supply in Section 55 of the Water Industry Act can be interpreted inappropriately and inhibit the provision of supplies to fire fighting systems when their use may affect supplies to other customers taking a supply of water for domestic purposes. In practice sprinkler systems operate only when there is a fire and we believe society would accept that in such cases saving life takes priority. The lack of a clear duty upon water companies to provide supplies of water for the purposes of fighting fires via a service pipe, has led to some water suppliers fear ing an assumption of liability for a sprinkler system failure should flow and pressure in services mains be curtailed or limited. We believe that this fear can be adequately addressed if water companies inform the local fire brigade and include a reference to sprinklers in standard flyers distributed to customers to warn them of planned water supply restrictions.

A change in the Water Industry Act 1991 would support and encourage an increase in the number of affordable installations, with more resilient distribution networks, better maintenance of water pressures and more flexibility with direct mains connections.


It is proposed that amendments to Section 57 of the WIA are made as suggested below:

Section 57 should be amended to create a duty upon water undertakers to provide a supply of water for extinguishing fires via service pipes. The duty outlined in this section should extend to the supply of water for extinguishing fires supplied via a service pipe to premises, and the means of extinguishing fires may be via manually operated or automatic apparatus.

A suggested rephrasing would be:

Section 57.(Duty to provide a supply of water for fire fighting) It shall be the duty of a water undertaker to allow any person to take water for extinguishing fires from any of its water mains.

Water for extinguishing fires may be taken:

(i) from fire hydrants fixed on the water undertaker s mains, or

(ii) via service pipes connected from those mains to consumers premises.

· Water for extinguishing fires may be taken via manually operated or automatic apparatus.

· This duty shall exist in addition to any domestic supply duty or duty to supply of water for non-domestic purposes relating to any premises.

· It shall be the duty of a water undertaker to maintain any service pipes supplying water to apparatus installed for extinguishing fires whether the service pipes are used solely for that purpose or jointly for extinguishing fires and supplying water for domestic or non-domestic purposes.

· This duty shall be subject to the limitations in Section 52(7).

· This duty shall not extend to making a supply available in any sufficiency as may be required by any specific apparatus or equipment

Amendment to Section 65:

New Section 65.1(b) have fire hydrants fixed upon them or connections to equipment installed in any premises for extinguishing fires.

The duty should extend to similar obligations around provision of connections to mains, laying, testing and maintenance of service pipes, as are currently provided in relation to supplies of water for domestic purposes.

The duty should not create any additional obligations around mains pressure in networks other than those currently contained within the WIA .

A number of additional issues will remain but these can more easily be addressed if the proposed amendments have been a dopted . These are :

· Impacts of meters on water supply;

· Requirements for the provision of on-site storage or pumping;

· Availability of suitably size d service pipes.

Section 147 of the WIA applies to this new category of supplies for fighting fires and therefore no charges may be levied for the water taken for testing equipment, training persons in the use of such equipment, or water used by such equipment for extinguishing fires. This would not prevent charges being made for water taken for other purposes from the service pipe or apparatus installed for extinguishing fire. To this end Water Companies may require that water meters are fitted to connections. In these situations the water company would ensure that installation of a water meter does not have any detrimental effect on the water available to the fire sprinkler system .

No conditions should be applied which impose storage as the only provision of supply, rather that such a determination be made by the sprinkler installer following consultation with the water company, and having regard to the capacity of the supply.

Designers of sprinkler systems should ensure that in dialogue with the incumbent water provider that decisions are made as the appropriate size of supply pipe that is laid, bearing in mind the limitations of the networks to provide such supplies and any additional installation or maintenance costs that may be incurred.

Clearly all such installations on customers’ premises would fall under the scope of the Water Industry Act 1991 .

It should be recognised that with this duty could come an increased maintenance responsibility for the water undertaker, if additional service pipes are laid within the highway and that this may have funding implications for the water companies. The cost of the original laying of such pipes would be borne by the customer.

As the apparatus only takes water for testing or emergency use i.e. extinguishing fires, and therefore has no routine demands upon the water distribution networks or treatment capacity, infrastructure charges should not be levied in respect of these connections; except where new premises would otherwise have been liable and have a single service pipe providing water for domestic and fire fighting purposes.

December 2013

Prepared 11th December 2013