WATER companies must move full speed ahead with repairing leaks if consumers were not to face further restrictions, MP Ian Liddell-Grainger warned.

He has written to Wessex Water and South West Water stressing the need to reduce the huge volumes of water lost through leaking pipes to create a more resilient supply network.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said although a rainy winter had replenished storage, the weather should be seen as no more than a respite from a long-term trend toward hotter, drier summers when water supplies could be put under unprecedented strain.

He said: “Given that even if the decision was taken today to build a new reservoir it would probably be 15 years before it was built and starting to fill, the obvious alternative approach is to ensure every last drop of rain that falls can be stored and delivered to consumers.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger, who represents West Somerset and will be the Conservative candidate for the new Tiverton and Minehead constituency taking in parishes adjoining Wellington, has already met Environment Secretary Steve Barclay to discuss the Westcountry’s water supply situation.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, a vocal critic of South West Water, said: “It is clear to anybody that of the two companies covering this area, South West Water is the worst performer.

“It has been the subject of two Ofwat investigations and last year was in the disgraceful position of appealing to the very people who pay its water bills not to use too much so that there would be enough water for summer visitors - who don’t.

“South West Water has failed miserably to increase storage capacity not merely to deal with the current trend of steadily increasing demand, but to prepare it for what is coming down the road.

“Now the weather is slowly improving, I would expect to see it shifting its leak repair programme into top gear to make it slightly less vulnerable to the vagaries of the climate.”

The Environment Agency said rainfall across the Westcountry in the six months from last October to March this year had been 158 per cent of the long term average.