Founded over 70 years ago and now the largest producer of breakfast cereals in the UK, Weetabix knows a thing or two about efficient food production.

The company is also making great in-roads towards sustainability and signed up to the Food and Drink Federations’ Five-Fold Environmental Ambition, pledging to reduce their water use by 20% from 2007 to 2020.

Underground leak

Three years into the pledge to reduce water and the company was making good progress towards the 2020 target. Then they discovered an underground leak in their water supply network was losing over 140,000 litres of water every day.

At the company’s main production site and headquarters in Burton Latimer, production runs 24/7, so the first time managers noticed unusual water consumption was during the Christmas shutdown. Water use remained high after all the processes were suspended, indicating a major underground leak.

Detection and repair

We were contacted by Weetabix and arranged for a Leakage Find & Fix team to visit the site and carry out a number of detection activities. The site survey revealed a significant leak on the rising main to the canteen facility, which was caused by the corrosion of the metal pipes.

A leak of this size will lose over 50 million litres of water a year if left unchecked, costing as much as £100,000 in water and wastewater charges for water that was never used. Thankfully, it hadn’t caused any damage to the building’s foundations or other site infrastructure.

Carbon footprint

The supply of water and its treatment to drinking water standards also has an associated carbon footprint. So this leak could have generated 40 tonnes of CO2 over the course of a year. This would have a significant impact on the company’s aim to reduce their carbon footprint by over 3,000 tonnes a year.

Extensive site survey

An extensive survey was required to investigate the 75-acre site, which comprises seven large production plants, warehousing, offices, a restaurant, R&D facility and an energy centre. Work was scheduled in to minimise disruption as the site couldn’t meet customer orders if they suffered downtime, so much of the activity took place at weekends. Leak detection engineers also identified areas of inefficiency that could be addressed to reduce waste and lower costs. Examples of issues uncovered on site included inefficient machinery and faulty bathroom equipment.

A joint venture between Anglian Water Business and NWG business