Severn Trent Water has denied accusations from a trade union that the water shortage in the Midlands was caused by the implementation of its SAP computer systems.

Trade union GMB said that the introduction of a £70 million SAP system in June 2010 “had led to complete confusion in the scheduling of repair work and dealing with leaks” which led to “massive losses of water from the reservoirs.”

It warned that certain areas in the Midlands, including Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, could face a hosepipe ban in two weeks’ time.

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Gary Smith, GMB national secretary, said “Introducing the SAP system has led to water draining out of the reservoirs as the delay in fixing the leaks stretched out to 30 days compared with the target of three days. The management will blame the weather and will seek to divert attention from their own mismanagement that will lead to a hosepipe ban in two weeks unless we get heavy rain.”

However, Severn Trent denied that its computer system, which includes SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and SAP Resource and Portfolio Management (RPM), was at fault.

 “The introduction of any major computer system is challenging, but we refute entirely the suggestion that the current water resources situation is a result of the introduction of SAP or mismanagement.

“[The water resources situation] is directly due to the exceptionally dry spring and increased customer demand. Key reservoirs were full at the end of February,” a spokesperson for the company said.

GMB claimed that earlier this week (6 June), Severn Trent had to implement a workaround to the SAP system to address the water leak repair lead times.

Severn Trent admitted that it was failing to meet its leak repair targets, but said that it was out of the company’s control.

“We set ourselves a tough target of three days because we know customers see leaks as a problem.

“Unfortunately, we are not in control of how quickly those leaks can be fixed because often we need permission, for example, digging up a road or putting in a light, before they can be fixed,” a spokesperson said.

In its results last November, Severn Trent revealed that it had achieved cost savings of around £5 million in 2010 from restructuring its support functions, and that it expected its SAP deployment to help deliver £10 million in savings this year.