Households in parts of the UK appear set to wake up on Christmas without running water, in an outage which has impacted thousands of people over the past week.
After some of the coldest weather in a decade, temperatures shot up by almost 20C in some places last weekend, in a rapid thaw which burst pipes across the country and wrought havoc on the water network.
Tens of thousands of homes have been affected, mainly in the south of England, and water supplies have largely been restored as engineers worked through the night to locate and fix the broken pipes.
But homes in Hertfordshire and Wales remained without running water on Christmas Eve, respectively six and eight days since households first saw their taps run dry.
In the town of Bishop’s Stortford, the outage appeared set to continue into 25 December, as supplier Affinity Water said its engineers would be working through the night.
In an update to customers at 9pm, the water company said: “Work continues throughout the night and we’re pleased to say that our efforts today to bring in water from other areas looks like it’s having a positive effect on the reservoir levels.”
Appealing to customers with a newly restored supply to restrict their water use for drinking, cooking and cleaning, it asked people in the area not to use hosepipes or appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.
“This will help bring up the levels quicker and those in your community without will get a supply back sooner,” the company said.
Affinity said it had reopened its bottled water station in Thorley Community Centre – but one resident complained on social media that the company had “run out”, adding: “Let’s hope Santa has some on his sleigh.”
Another reported losing water again late on Saturday night after their supply had returned earlier, calling the situation “ridiculous” and saying sarcastically: “Happy Christmas.”
In Wales, some 4,500 homes were hit by outages last Saturday. While the “overwhelming majority” of homes had supplies restored, there remained “a few local issues with intermittent or low pressure”, Welsh Water said in an update at 10pm on Christmas Eve.
“This is caused by ‘air locks’ in our network as it repressurises. Our teams are working round the clock to sort this as soon as possible but it needs to be done carefully to avoid the pipes bursting again,” the supplier said.
In a letter to customers, chief executive Peter Perry said Welsh Water would pay households £70 in compensation for each day without water.
South East Water also said it would also be running a bottled water station in Pembury, Kent, on Christmas Day as a precaution after its engineers sought to fix outages affecting households in Staplehurst and Selsfield.