Mark Hodgens, managing director of Talis UK.
Mark Hodgens, managing director of Talis UK.

Utility firms that try to save a few pounds by buying substandard water valves, such as those produced by Chinese counterfeiters, are having to spend more than £2,000 a time to fix the problem when they break.

Talis UK, which designs, manufactures and supplies valves, meterboxes and water fittings for all types of pipe, has calculated how much it costs water companies and their subcontractors to replace faulty water valves, such as 50ml gate valves used on mains networks to supply running water to commercial premises throughout the UK.

High-quality 50 ml gate valves are not cheap from reputable suppliers and substandard copies often appear on sites such as eBay for much less. If and when these copies fail, however, a utility firm has to pay to call out a minimum two-person maintenance team, cover the cost of the maintenance team travelling to and from the site, pay for time spent by the maintenance team to fit the valve, and cover the cost of a replacement valve.

In total, Talis UK estimates this could cost the water company upwards of £2,000.

Wasted money

Some of the largest utility companies in the UK and overseas have wasted money by buying substandard valves, and the problem is growing. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures state there were approximately 20,000 seizures of counterfeit, substandard or fraudulent items in the US in 2010. This haul was worth US$199 million (£118 million) in shipment value, which is equivalent to US$1.4 billion at the manufacturer's recommended price. Computers & hardware, which includes industrial applications such as those in the utilities sector, was identified as one of the most frequently faked categories.

A big part of the problem is that cut-price copies of high-specification products such as water valves can be manufactured in one country and repackaged in a second before being sold online to a consumer in a third, making effective legislation difficult.

Training sessions

To help water companies learn more about the risks of using poor copies of water valves, Talis UK has organised a series of lunch-and-learn training sessions. These sessions, which examine both clean-water and waste-water applications, will give attendees the knowledge of what materials are used in certain types of valves, the methods of operation, allowable leakage rates, process requirements and much more.

Mark Hodgens, managing director of Talis UK, said: "Water companies are needlessly spending upwards of £2,000 per time to replace poor-quality valves that weren't fit for purpose in the first place.

"There are plenty of simple steps that utility firms can take to ensure they don't get caught out by substandard valves and counterfeits. High-quality valves should be made from sturdy materials, not have any defects and perform as promised in the sales brochure, while the packaging should always include valid certification marks and clear installation instructions. "Our lunch-and-learn training sessions will help water companies spot good valves from bad ones, saving them both time and money." There is no cost to attend a Talis UK lunch-and-learn training session, which includes a complimentary meal.