Case for water metering and volumetric charging compelling in New Zealand

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Wellington, New Zealand — (METERING.COM) — January 14, 2009 – On environmental, economic and social equity grounds the case for water metering and volumetric charging in New Zealand is compelling, according to Murray Gibb, CEO of the New Zealand Water and Wastes Association (NZWWA).

In a statement from the Association, Gibb says that with another dry period upon New Zealand territorial authorities up and down the country are juggling to ensure sufficient water is available to get through to the autumn. A suite of instruments are being rolled out to moderate demand, provide education to increase awareness of the need for conservation and restrictions on non–essential high use activities such as watering of gardens, and be more vigilant on the detection and repair of leaks.

By and large communities are comfortable with such policies to manage demand during dry periods. However, some water conservation policies, including metering and volumetric charging, aren’t so popular.

Nevertheless, says Gibb the fact of the matter is that where other methods of managing water use may be moderately successful, metering and volumetric charging is the most effective tool to change water use behaviors.

“Consistently, both locally and internationally where metering and volumetric charges have been introduced, peak demand has been reduced by between 20 and 40 percent,” says Gibb. In Nelson for example, when this regime was introduced several years ago, peak summer demand reduced by 37 percent.

Gibb says the Association’s vision is to ensure water for New Zealand’s future and it supports metering and volumetric charging for several reasons.

Economically it is more efficient to manage demand than simply increase supply. Water supplies, along with waste and stormwater management systems are big ticket items.

Cost/benefit analyses of metering and charging indicate that the associated capital and operating expenditure produces a high rate of return. One Council reported that the introduction of metering delayed estimated capital expenditure of $75 million on water supply investments for around 10-12 years.

Local authorities also face significant cost in removing and processing wastewater. As there is a directly proportional relationship between the volume of water used by households and the volume of wastewater produced, reducing the demand for water reduces the resultant volume of waste water.

Gibb continues that because its price is not readily visible in rates demands, public awareness and appreciation of the value and cost of the supply of water is low. If the price and use of water were directly connected, as they are for other private goods, that attitude would change. “How frugal would we be if the cost of fuel was bulked up in uniform annual charges against private property, oil companies were recompensed by territorial authorities, and motorists filled up at the pump at no charge?” he says.

Looking to the future, Gibb says it is more than likely that where there is pressure on water supplies regional authorities will require evidence of demand management as conditions on consents. In a country with abundant water this is not just fanciful: Environment Waikato, for example, is proposing a variation to its regional plan requiring water management plans to be supplied by applicants seeking water takes for municipal supply.

Metering and volumetric charging for domestic water supply is currently employed by 11 of the 73 territorial authorities in New Zealand. A further eight Councils have metering in some areas of their respective jurisdictions. The average daily per capita water use across Councils that impose volumetric charging for water supply is typically in the region of 200 l, compared with over 700 l from some without metering and volumetric charging.