Researchers at the University of Sheffield have discovered that leaking water pipes not only releases clean water, but also sucks in dirty water.

Professor Joby Boxall’s team recreated a mains water pipe system and systematically damaged it to find out how the water behaved.

This means that leaking pipes can allow contaminants into drinking water. This makes getting replacement water pipes a potentially urgent issue in some cases.

How it Can Happen

Leaks are commonplace in pipe networks. Normally the high pressure in the pipe will drive the water out without letting anything in. However, water pressure may suddenly drop, either through pump or valve failure, or where there is sudden demand, such as from firefighters.

When this occurs, if there is a leak, then the pressure of the surrounding groundwater may end up being higher than inside the pipe, thus sucking external water in. The same can happen if there is negative pressure, where it is lower than the atmosphere.

If this water is sucked in, then if it has any contaminants they will also enter the system.

Is Contaminated Water harmful?

Often, water pollution does not have an immediate effect on health, but it can cause long-term damage. However, you can end up with an upset stomach from water contaminants, and infants, young children and pregnant women may be at greater risk.

Pathogens can contaminate drinking water. Pathogenic bacteria may occur in large numbers in surface water. They can occur naturally in the environment, as well as being excreted in faeces.

These pathogens include Salmonella and Staphylococcus.

Water can also transmit viral diseases including hepatitis A and norovirus.

What to Do About Leaking Pipes

You can repair leaking pipes, but if you have old pipework, the best solution will be to replace it. You are responsible for the mains pipe within your property boundary, not your local utilities provider.

Fortunately, having replacement water pipe no longer need involve disruptive excavation work.

We use state-of-the-art trenchless technology. We can replace your water pipes by setting up strategic boreholes and pulling new plastic pipes into place.

This method is fast, cost-effective, and minimises the disturbance to your property.


If you’re worried about your water quality and think you might need replacement water pipes, contact Pipeline Services today.