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Pounds 250 for a leak-free winter

The Water Companies Association, which represents 17 water supply companies, is urging local authorities not to "play Russian roulette with their schools' buildings" and is trying to persuade them to fit a new device which identifies leaks immediately and automatically switches off the water supply. The grey plastic device costs around Pounds 250, and most schools, according to the WCA, would only need one.

In the winter of 1995-6, 43 per cent of schools in the Northumbrian water area suffered burst pipes. The WCA also warns that the increasingly common practice of turning the heating off during the holidays is "taking a huge gamble on the weather".

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