A £2.5M SCHEME to repair and restore water pipes in rural villages has begun.

Yorkshire Water is warning residents that disruption is inevitable as the work gets underway in Wensleydale.

A total of 27kms of mains pipes will be repaired in Leyburn, Bainbridge, Spennithorne, Preston-under-Scar, Wensley, Bellerby, Worton and Thornton Rust.

The work in Leyburn town centre is expected to be finished by the end of March.

A spokesman for Yorkshire Water said: "Basically, what we're doing is either relining mains in the area or replacing them if they're beyond repair.

"Sometimes, we can do relining work without having to dig trenches. But if mains need renewing - such as in Leyburn - then some disruption is inevitable because we can't do it without digging down to them.

"The result, once we've finished, is a cleaner, more relia-ble supply, but while the work is under way, there is always the risk of discolouration."

The water firm has sent letters to customers, telling them they could see their supply interrupted, or find sediment in their supply.

The spokesman said: "We hope we can complete the scheme without a problem. However, anyone who does find their water is discoloured is advised to run their cold tap for a minute or so to see if it clears.

"If not, then it's best to fill a container and allow the sediment to settle and the water should then be safe to drink."

Any appliances attached to the hot water supply, such as washing machines and dishwashers, should not be used until the supply is clear.

Forums for residents have already been held in Leyburn and Bainbridge, which the water firm says were both well-attended.

Yorkshire Water has issued a reminder to customers that staff should not need access to homes while the work is being carried out.

The spokesman said: "It's best to treat strangers knocking on the door with suspicion, no matter how credible they seem.

"Genuine Yorkshire Water employees, and those of our contractors, carry identity cards which can be checked by telephoning 0845-124 2424.