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Advice for customers as the freeze continues over the holiday period

23 December 2010 20:04


Over the holiday period, NI Water staff and contractors have been put on high alert in readiness for a Major Incident Plan response to thaw conditions predicted to set in during the holiday period.

Over the last three days, NI Water’s Waterline number received approximately 9,000 calls. Of these calls, approximately 7,500 were from customers seeking advice for pipes frozen on their property.

NI Water staff have repaired 436 bursts in December to date against a 2009/10 monthly average of 159. Staff have battled against minus thirteen freezing conditions to attend water and wastewater treatment works to ensure they are operating as normal in the severe weather.

NI Water is appealing to the general public, schools and businesses (including farms, estate agents, landlords, caravan parks etc.) to protect their properties as the extreme weather continues. Many businesses and schools have closed for the holiday period, however, it is vital arrangements are made to protect the property during the closure period. If heating is not circulating around properties, the pipes will freeze and most likely burst. This can cause major devastation including a costly clean up bill and put a school or business out of action for weeks.

Specific advice for individual groups is available on, however, NI Water would like to remind property owners and key holders of some important points:

VERY IMPORTANT - Maintain heating in buildings – this will help to prevent pipes freezing.

We need domestic customers to be vigilant and check their properties for burst pipes. These need to be located and repaired as soon as possible. You are responsible for the pipework on your property. NI Water cannot fix pipework on private ground. Leaking water from burst pipes has the potential to cause an unnecessary strain on NI Water’s water supplies.

For businesses, know where your meter is and check it regularly. A dramatic increase in water usage could be a sign you have a leak on your property. You are responsible for the water supply on your land, so it is important to isolate and repair leaks as soon as possible. Repairing leaks will also help reduce water bills.

It is essential that schools/ businesses regularly check their properties over the holiday period for frozen or burst pipes. It is also advisable to maintain some heating within the schools to prevent frozen pipes.

NI Water’s top tips for avoiding frozen pipes include:

If you have a meter, know where it is and check it regularly. A dramatic increase in water usage could be a sign of a leak on the property;

Get to know the pipework within the property;

Locate your stop valves;

Ensure that pipes are properly protected with lagging;

Fix any dripping taps;

Please do not run taps. It causes wastage of water;

Isolate supplies not required over the winter period;

When a building is not in use (including weekends) during freezing weather conditions consider having some heat in buildings to stop pipes freezing;

Write down the name and contact details of a SNIPEF (Scotland and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers Federation) plumber;

If you have a meter, to check if your supply pipe is leaking, turn off all taps/appliances that use water. Make sure no water is going down into cisterns or storage tanks. Then read dial on meter and leave for 1 hour. If second reading is higher then there may be a leak;

NI Water’s Advice During the Thaw:

If you are out of water, first check with your neighbours. If they HAVE water, it is likely that the problem is with your internal pipework. Call a plumber to have the problem fixed.

If your neighbours are WITHOUT water, it could be a burst watermain. Call Waterline on 08457 440088 to report the problem.

You are our eyes and ears – if you spot a leak or a burst pipe, don’t assume we know abut it, we depend on the public to alert us to leaks. Please call Waterline so we can fix the burst as soon as possible.

Further advice for staying safe during the extreme cold weather:

Liam Mulholland, Customer Services Manager, NI Water explains:

“The freezing weather we are currently experiencing can bring problems other than frozen pipes.

“Firstly, we would appeal to the public to heighten their awareness of the risks of playing on or around water, frozen or otherwise.

“Secondly, we would ask people to check the identity of anyone claiming to be from NI Water. All NI Water ID cards should have a photo of the person carrying it, their name, a unique serial number and our logo If in doubt, call our customer helpline on 08457 440 088 where staff will be able to confirm whether the person is genuine and if in fact they should be at your property.

“NI Water also operates a Customer Care Register. The Register captures vital details of people with medical conditions, disabilities or older people. The services provided to customers on the Register are free of charge, customers simply need to let us know their particular needs.


NI Water operates a co-ordinated response to major incidents with government departments, agencies and Councils.

All media enquiries to NI Water Press Office on 028 9035 4710/ or email

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