Water leaks waste the equivalent of 453,000 bath tubs worth of water every day, an MEP has claimed.

Essex MEP Alex Mayer highlighted this extraordinary figure for Essex and Suffolk Water in a speech to the European Parliament.

Ms Mayer went on to contrast this with the over £13bn the privatised water industry has showered their shareholders with in dividends since 2010.

MEPs were debating how to save water, encourage investment in infrastructure to cut wasteful leaks across the water industry and share best practice.

In the Netherlands only 5% of water put into the system is lost because of leaks, compared to around 20 per cent in England.

Ms Mayer backed calls by the GMB trade union to bring water into public hands and says Britain can learn from the Dutch experience. Holland's parliament passed a law in 2004 banning private sector provision of water supply and its water companies are publicly owned.

Speaking in the Parliament chamber in Strasbourg, Alex Mayer MEP said: “Water is vital to life and about as natural a monopoly as you can find. Where’s the need for a market? When you run a bath the choice is hot or cold not Anglia Water or Thames Water.”

“It’s time for change - we need a water industry that works for everyone - and England’s water industry needs to be in the hands of the public.”