We are an independent non-ministerial government department set up to ensure the effective regulation of the Electricity, Gas and Water and Sewerage industries in Northern Ireland.

Freeze thaw investigation 2011

Following major water supply disruptions, affecting approximately 450,000 consumers across Northern Ireland during December 2010-January 2011, we exercised our statutory powers by conducting an investigation into NI Water’s handling of the incident.

Over an eight-week period, we carried out a detailed investigation into the causes and the extent of the supply disruption and the performance of NI Water during the incident. Several seconded and expert staff from water companies in Great Britain assisted us with our investigation. We also benefitted from the input of an oversight committee, comprising a range of senior experienced individuals from across the UK, who provided advice throughout the period of the investigation.

Our investigation report concluded that adverse weather – the worst in 100 years – and NI Water’s inadequate response (poor executive leadership and customer communication in particular) were key factors affecting the customer experience. Our investigation also found that around 80% of the additional water demand caused by the freeze thaw leaked from domestic and business water pipes.

Our report included a Recovery Action plan for addressing the problems identified. This detailed 53 actions for NI Water, other statutory bodies and us to address.

NI Water acknowledged all of the conclusions from the investigation and made a formal commitment to deliver the actions in the Recovery Action plan that relate to them.