UK MPs propose compulsory water meters


Members of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) believe that targets to reduce leakage by 15% by 2025 are not ambitious enough. A report has been released recommending that all water companies be allowed to make meter installations compulsory.

EFRA further states that currently three billion litres of water are leaked every day.

There is also increased emphasis on achieving water resiliency in light of increased frequency and severity of droughts.

According to Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee: “Water leaks affect the environment, as the more is leaked, the more must be taken from our rivers and other natural sources. It also sends a poor message to the public about the value of water when people are being encouraged to save water. Water companies should be leading by example. We are calling for the amount of water lost through leaks to be halved by 2040.”

The Committee heard strong evidence that water metering helps to reduce water use and detect when leaks are occurring. Currently, only water companies in designated water-stressed regions can make metering compulsory.

Neil Parish MP said: “We need to move beyond a regional approach to water metering, because there is a national need to conserve water. We call on Defra to allow all water companies the power to implement compulsory metering. That way, companies have the same tools at their disposal to reduce consumption of water in their regions. Where this might lead to significant bill increases, metering should be accompanied by strengthened support for vulnerable customers.”

Although most customers are satisfied with their water companies, there are over 2 million complaints and unwanted contacts (i.e. reporting service issues or asking for action to be taken) per year. The Committee heard that the complaints system can be unnecessarily convoluted.

Report’s recommendations

  • By the end of 2019, amend regulations to allow all water companies to implement compulsory metering, using smart meters.
  • Water industry should collectively be aiming to reduce leakage by 50% by 2040, rather than 2050.
  • Ofwat should review how the complaints process within water companies could be streamlined. This could include a mechanism whereby water companies either automatically pay complainants a fixed sum or escalate complaints to CCWater if the complaint is not resolved by the company within 15 days.
  • Review whether the Environment Agency has the necessary powers and resources to enforce a drastic reduction in sewage overflows into rivers.
  • Commission an independent review of whether the water industry and regulation are fit to meet future needs such as drought resilience, as well as delivering value for money for customers.