Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Potential for Partially Corrugated Stainless Steel Service Pipes

In this research project for Southern Water, United Utilities, and the Nickel Institute, WRc evaluated the potential for stainless steel pipes to advance the UK water industry in its goal towards zero leakage.

Leakage strategy services


the opportunity for a paradigm shift to remove root causes of failure in current operations


an independent ‘deep dive’ review of the existing evidence for leakage reduction benefits


cost-benefit analysis and assessed UK-specific regulatory drivers involved in potential application


outcomes that align with current and long-term strategies for leakage reduction and prevention

Addressing a key industry target

Fixing leaks from the water network is one of the industry’s biggest priorities, and companies have put an increased focus on it for the 2020-2025 period. The UK water industry has proposed the most ambitious leakage target in the last 20 years, in order to significantly reduce lost water and safeguard future supply-demand balance.

It is clear that leakage is a major and costly problem in UK. 25% of leakage is found in the customer supply pipe, heavily populated regions are water stressed, and climate change is increasingly manifesting itself through extreme weather events becoming the norm.

This industry vision requires a paradigm shift in company thinking and operating to innovate and collaborate more with other sectors. The solution must not be constrained by the limitations of existing materials, methods and equipment.

Embracing innovative solutions

A radical rethink of pipe material to remove the root causes or potential points of failure, such as joints, may offer the answer the UK industry needs. Solutions may come from technologies or installation techniques associated with pipelines laid in severe environments, i.e., in areas where movement of pipes is an issue due to soil conditions and associated ground shift.

Based on the leakage reduction benefits achieved in the Far East (Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei), the Nickel Institute and International Molybdenum Association have introduced the possibility of installing partially corrugated stainless steel for service pipes – new and renewal - in the UK to reduce leakage.

The cost benefit of its application to the UK water sector is not yet fully understood. In an independent ‘deep dive’ review, WRc used its extensive knowledge and experience of water networks to undertake a review of all available information from the existing use of partially corrugated stainless steel pipes for service pipes, for evidence of leakage reduction benefits.


Identified by The Nickel Institute as the material of choice in the global water processing industry, stainless steel has had a reliable track record that spans decades.


Stainless steel is corrosion-resistant, strong and durable, even retaining its strength at low temperatures and under external movement such as seismic activity, soil settling, traffic loading and digging equipment.


Easy to install using existing industry methods, stainless steel is formable at each corrugation and allows for one-length, connection-free pipe installation.


Environmental and societal benefits support goals regarding climate change and water efficiency, thanks to increased pipe longevity and recyclability, as well as reduced maintenance, cost, and carbon emissions.

An independent 'deep dive' review

The work has highlighted several outcomes that align with the current AMP7 and longer-term strategies of reducing leakage within UK water networks, and importantly the prevention of new leakage.

Leakage reduction

Case data from Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei demonstrates significant reductions in both leakage and repair to date, which is attributed to using stainless steel service pipes. The partially corrugated material has removed joints, elbows and other potential points of future leakage failure.

Metal pipework enables easier leak detection using traditional techniques, aiding leakage reduction.

Maintenance and repair

Corrugations make the pipes easy to bend on site during installation. Installed correctly, the service pipes maintenance needs are exceedingly low, and service life extends more than 100 years.

Reduced cost of repairing leaks, such as the cost of digging up roads, disrupting customer supplies, interfering with the movement of traffic and impact to water company reputation.

Environmental impact

The corrugations cause turbulent flow which reduce the risk for deposits or biofilms and keeping the internal surface clean, reflected in reports that water quality is not adversely affected by long term installation of corrugations.

Stainless steel has one of the lightest environmental impacts of all known construction materials. It is 100% recyclable and produced from scrap steel and electricity. 

Application to UK networks

Understanding the regulatory landscape, drivers, ownership issues, and replacement and repair strategies for services pipes is fundamental to establishing how, where and when stainless steel could be used as a material within UK water networks.

  • Cost-benefit analysis and assessment against UK-specific regulatory drivers

WRc's research concluded that the method becomes the best-value, low-risk solution considering its lower failure rate than current UK methods. 

By targeting hotspots of service pipe failure, a proactive replacement strategy is likely to be cost-beneficial in the long-term while supporting Water UK's 2050 Zero Leakage Roadmap and the Public Interest Commitment.

Skilled team

This project saw successful and cost-effective delivery by a skilled team, alongside technical specialists providing expertise in leakage, leakage economics, pipes, meters and emerging technology.

Wealth of experience

Our wealth of leakage project experience includes leading the work on UK supply pipe management and future options for better asset stewardship, and working with UK water companies to investigate the impact of customer-side leakage approaches.

Trusted by industry

WRc authored two reports: “Laying Leak-Free New Networks” and “Leak Repair Techniques” in support of UKWIR’s Water Mains and Services: Leakage WM/08 programme aiming to achieving zero leakage by 2050.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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