HALTON'S water supplier has been condemned for losing more than a quarter of its supply to leaks - the second-worst record in the country.
The amount of water lost from United Utilities' ageing pipes, equivalent to 35 gallons every day for every property, has been described as 'unacceptably high' by a House of Lords committee.
The revelations come just days after the Warrington-based firm announced an increase in profits of 21% to £481m and warned customers their bills could rise even further.
The damning Lords report reveals United Utilities stands alone in allowing an increase in leaks in recent years, to 110m gallons a day in 2004/5, 7m gallons above its target.
The company's 'leakage targets' through to the end of the decade predicted only a tiny 1.06% cut in the amount of water lost.
The all-party committee demands suppliers such as United Utilities make better use of technology to accurately detect and repair leaky pipes.
The report concludes: 'Given that the development of technologies for leakage detection and repair continues unabated, we believe that leakage levels should be reduced further.
'It would also help to increase consumers' trust in the water companies and reduce their resentment at being told to save water when so many utilities are still losing such a large amount through leakages.'
But a United Utilities spokesman hit back, pointing out that its reservoirs across the North West region were 95% full. Furthermore, more recent figures than those used by the committee showed leakages had already been cut to 103m litres a day by the end of March this year, the company claimed.
About £70m would be spent over the next four years on fixing pipes and the company had reached its 'economic level of leakage', below which it costs more money to fix leaks than was saved.
The spokesman said: 'That means we are making best use of our customers' money to control leaks in the North West.
'It is a difficult message to communicate but leakage will never be completely eradicated.
'It would simply add too much to bills, which is why the regulator, Ofwat, agrees an economic level of leakage.'