WITH temperatures dipping below minus across South Lakeland and Cumbria overnight and a bright but chilly forecast for the weekend, water bosses have been issuing tips about how to avoid frozen pipes.

Thermometers across the area are expected to struggle to get above freezing today and are likely to stay cold for Saturday and Sunday, dipping as low as - 4C in some places. 

Temperatures are forecast to rise on Monday with rain and wind and possibly some snow on hills due.

United Utilities say surveys have shown that most people are unaware of what preventative steps to take.

There top three tips are:

• Lag your pipes so they are much less likely to freeze and cut off your water

• Find and label your stop tap so that you know exactly where to switch the water off if you get a burst pipe.

• Make sure you already know the number of a good plumber.

Colin McDermott, of United Utilities, said: "We're working hard to keep our huge network of pipes flowing smoothly no matter how low the temperature drops. We want to make sure people at home know how to do the same."

The company has bought 37 additional four-wheel drive vans for this winter to add to its fleet of tankers, support vehicles and temperature-controlled trailer. The aim is to protect its 40,000km network of mains from ice and bursts this winter.

Barbara Leech, of the Consumer Council for Water, added: "Consumers should take advantage of the free pack that United Utilities is offering and follow the advice given. Action now could avoid disruption to homes and businesses from frozen or burst pipes when the cold weather takes a hold."

For helpful advice on preparing your home for winter visit www.unitedutilities.com/winterwise

* Six per cent of households say they've had a burst pipe before

* 41% say a burst pipe would cause them major disruption

* 33% of domestic customers are not confident about what to do to avoid frozen water pipes in winter.

* Only one in five people considers lagging their pipes or water tanks for winter.

* Around 80% of people know what to do if a pipe bursts but one in five people do not know how to thaw a frozen pipe safely.