Tom Melhuish 7 min read

Finding, fixing and preventing a business water leak

The Consumer Council for Water estimates that a staggering 3.1 billion litres of water are lost daily to leakage across the UK. To help put this into perspective, this is over three times the volume of Lake Windermere each year.

For business owners, there’s little you can do about leaky British water infrastructure, but it is vitally important to be aware of leaks that may occur on your commercial premises. A commercial water leak can cause structural damage to your property and unexpectedly high water bills.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about finding and fixing a business water leak.

💡If a water leak occurs within the boundary of your property, you’ll be responsible for paying for the wasted water, the damage it causes, and the cost of fixing the problem.

The consequences of a commercial water leak

A water leak can cause significant financial problems for your business, including an unexpected water bill and damage to property and equipment. In this section, we will explore both aspects.

Damage to property and equipment

The risk posed by a water leak may seem innocuous, yet even a small leak can cause significant problems if not addressed promptly.

Here are the three most significant potential consequences of an unidentified business water leak:

  • Structural damage: Over time, a leak can weaken the structural integrity of a building. Constant exposure to moisture can lead to the rotting of wood, corrosion of metal structures, and deterioration of building materials such as drywall and insulation.
  • Electrical damage: Water leaks near electrical equipment or wiring pose a significant risk of electrical damage and even fire hazards. Water can cause short circuits, electrical malfunctions, and corrosion of electrical components.
  • Damage to inventory: Water leaks can damage merchandise stored on shelves or in storage areas. For instance, leaks from ceilings or plumbing fixtures can directly soak clothing, electronics, or other goods, rendering them unsellable.

Increased commercial water bills

Most commercial properties in the UK are equipped with a water meter and stopcock valve, typically installed underneath the pavement at the edge of the property. Here’s a helpful diagram of pipes at a commercial property.

Should a leak occur within the boundary of your property, the water will have already passed through and been measured by your water meter. Consequently, you will be liable for any water leakage from pipes within your property.

Business water rates are charged on a volumetric basis, where you pay for each cubic meter of water used by your property.

💡It’s important to note that water meter readings are taken every six months. Therefore, you should not wait for a large business water bill before worrying about a water leak.

Identifying a leak on your business premises

There are two methods for detecting a water leak on your commercial property: the first involves looking for indicators of the effects of the leaked water, and the second utilises your water meter. In this section, we will explore both methods.

Indicators of a water leak

Here are the top three indicators to look out for suggesting that a large water leak is currently an issue on your commercial property.

Boggy or damp ground on your property

If you notice an area of land that appears unusually saturated with water, it could indicate a significant leak. This kind of leak, typically originating from an underground supply pipe, will impact only a specific area.

The rainy British weather can also result in damp ground, making this easiest to spot after good weather, particularly during the summer months between May and October.


Ground subsidence occurs when the ground underneath a property starts to sink. It reveals itself through minor changes to your business property – such as sticking windows and doors, ripples in wallpaper, or cracks running along walls.

Subsidence is often caused by damage to water and drainage systems and can impact a property’s structural safety and value.

💡Suspected subsidence should be addressed immediately.

Mould and mildew

A leak may result in water seeping into your business property’s floors, walls, or ceilings. The affected area will become damp and then attract mould, which emits a musty odour that may indicate a broken pipe.

Often, mould indicates a leaking roof or exterior crack, so comparing the affected area with any available utility maps of your property is essential.

How to check for a water leak

You can use your water meter as a way of checking whether you’re losing water to a leak within your property using the following steps:

  1. Turn off all appliances on your property that use water. It’s easiest to do this over a weekend or overnight when the building is not in use.
  2. Locate your water meter – It’s usually under a cover on the pavement outside your property. Here’s a link to our visual guide for finding your business water meter.
  3. Take a meter reading – Record the numbers on the front of your meter. Here’s our guide to meter readings for further details. Make a note of the time you do this.
  4. Wait a few hours – You’ll need to wait a few hours for the water lost to your leak to be measurable.
  5. Take another meter reading – Take another meter reading. If the figure on your meter has increased since the first, then this represents water lost to your leak.
  6. Measure your leak rate – Calculate the rate at which you’re losing water to the leak each hour. It is done by subtracting the first reading from the second and then dividing by the number of hours between the meter readings.

Fixing a leak on your commercial property

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having a water leak at your commercial property, here are the next steps we recommend you take.

If a leak is identified outside the network of pipes bound by your water meter, it will be the responsibility of the local water company to fix it. In this case, we recommend contacting your local water company to inform them of the problem.

If the leak is within the boundary of your property, then the cost of repairs will fall to the property owner or occupier. In this scenario, here are the next steps we recommend:

Shutting off your water supply

If the water leak on your property is significant, we recommend that you shut off the water supply to prevent further water loss and property damage. Typically, at the boundary of your property, next to the water meter, you’ll find a stopcock valve that can be used to turn off the connection between your property and the water mains.

Alternatively, if you know the location of the leak, you could isolate the water connection at the affected part of the property.

Contact your business water supplier

Some business water suppliers have leakage teams dedicated to helping their customers by repairing water leaks.

We recommend contacting your business water supplier first to see if they can offer any support, as this may be more cost-effective than going directly to a local professional.

Here’s our guide to finding out who your business water supplier is.

Contacting a professional

Unless you possess the necessary experience and expertise in plumbing repairs, it’s advisable to engage a professional plumber or water damage restoration service to assess and repair the leak.

We recommend looking for a licensed and reputable contractor with experience in commercial properties in your local area.

Preventing water leaks on your business property

Although the measures for preventing water leaks depend on the precise nature of your commercial property, here are a few tips we recommend:

  • Install a smart water meter – A smart water meter continuously monitors your business’s water consumption. Simple alerts can inform you of any significant, unusual increases in water consumption that may indicate a water leak.
  • Regular inspections – It is advisable for your maintenance team to regularly check plumbing systems, including pipes, taps, and water-using appliances, for any signs of leaks.
  • Plumbing maintenance – Schedule regular maintenance for your plumbing systems. This should include checking for corroded pipes, worn-out seals, or loose fittings and repairing or replacing them as necessary.
  • Building insurance – We recommend securing a commercial building insurance policy that covers any losses associated with water leaks.

Business water leaks – FAQs

Our business water experts answer the most frequently asked questions about business water leaks.

What if my water meter appears to be leaking?

Water leaks around your water meter are common, as this is where the supply pipes within your property connect to the local water infrastructure.

An indication of this issue is if the water meter box, which is embedded in the pavement next to your commercial property, is filled with water, submerging your water meter.

In this scenario, we recommend contacting your business water supplier to arrange for a repair as soon as possible since the problem likely stems from installing the water meter.

After the issue has been resolved, it’s also wise to consider a business water audit. This could enable you to recover any business water cost you’ve incurred due to the leak.

Who is liable for my business water leak?

The liability for a business water leak depends on the leak’s location:

  • Outside the Boundary of Your Property: If the leak is outside the boundary of your property, it falls under the responsibility of the local water company.
  • Inside the Boundary of Your Property: If the leak is within the boundary of your property, then the property owner or occupier is liable.
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