Affinity Water: No compensation for customers in water softening row

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Affinity Water said it wants to listen to residents after it stopped partially softening water in 2021 - Credit: Archant

Water quality in Saffron Walden will not be improved for the foreseeable future, Affinity Water said yesterday (Tuesday, April 20).

At a residents' Zoom meeting, the water supplier said Saffron Walden is experiencing increased water hardness, which is associated with limescale build-up, after 18-year-old softening equipment stopped working earlier this year.

Affinity Water said the meeting was set up to "genuinely listen" to residents, following a challenge by Saffron Walden Town Council.

The town council believes a move to stop softening water in the medium or long term runs against a 1964 agreement with the supplier to treat hard water.

But Jake Rigg, Affinity Water's Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs told residents: "What you are seeing now is what the quality of your water will be for the foreseeable future."

At the meeting, residents raised their concerns about mineral deposits in the water.


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One resident said replacing household items as a result of limescale build up would come at an economic and environmental cost.

Limescale is thought to reduce the lifespan of electrical items such as kettles or washing machines.

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Heating units affected by limescale can also use more energy to reach high temperatures, with a knock-on impact to electricity bills.

Mr Rigg said this is a valid concern in the context of Affinity Water's commitment to "optimising" its energy use and minimising waste.

But he also said: "In terms of compensation - that would not be something we are going to do."

Along with limescale, minerals in some hard water are thought to damage the skin barrier, according to 2017 research by the University of Sheffield and King's College London.

This has been linked to the development of eczema.

After the event, a spokesperson for Affinity Water said: “We offer our sincere apologies in the way the change in hardness was originally communicated. 

“We are taking a root and branch review of our processes to improve our customer experience and will continue to listen to the concerns of Saffron Walden residents, whilst looking at potential future options for the area.”

A decision on Affinity Water's next steps is expected over the course of the next week.

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