Compulsory metering for water stressed areas in England

Phil Woolas,
UK Minister
of the Environment
London, UK — (METERING.COM) — August 17, 2007 – Water companies in areas of serious water stress in England will be able to seek compulsory water metering as part of their 25-year forward plans, UK environment minister Phil Woolas has announced.

The proposal follows a consultation with companies, regulators, charities and the public, and adds metering to the raft of options for companies, including developing new resources, for ensuring long term security of supply.

It will come into effect after the Price Review 2009.

Making the announcement, Minister Woolas said that a flexible range of tools is required if water supplies are to be managed sustainably in the future. “Metering saves water – around 10 percent per household – and it seems right to me that in seriously water-stressed areas the costs and benefits of compulsory metering are given consideration alongside other options.”

However, Woolas added that this is not a “green light” for universal metering, and also it in no way absolves companies from their responsibility to deliver on leakage targets.

“Water companies will have to make a strong case in their 25-year forward plans for compulsory metering in their region to get approval to go ahead, demonstrating that metering offers the best value for water customers’ money compared with the other options available, such as building new reservoirs. They will have to take into account the impacts on individual customers and particularly on vulnerable households. Their draft plans will be open to public consultation, so everyone in an affected area will have the chance to make their views known.”

Dame Yve Buckland, chair of the Consumer Council for Water, expressed the Council’s support for the view that metering is essential is water stressed areas but also noted its concern for the impact of the installation of meters on water bills, particularly for low income households.

“Concerns about metering can only be addressed when a comprehensive support mechanism is in place,” said Dame Yve. She added that consumer views on pricing, based on the Council’s research, would be put forward to the Price Review 2009.

The Environment Agency, an executive non-departmental body under the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has developed a methodology based on water availability and demand for defining areas of water stress, under which almost all of southeast England is under serious water stress.

This area is served by 12 water companies. To date only one, Folkestone and Dover Water, which supplies water to about 160,000 people in eastern Kent, has applied for and been granted permission to introduce compulsory metering.

Households use almost 70 percent of the billed water supplied by companies in England and Wales, with average per capita consumption in 2005/06 approximately 150 liters per person per day. Total household demand has been increasing for some years and this increase is expected to continue due to increases in both per capita consumption and the numbers of households.

Currently water metering in England and Wales stands at around 30 percent and is increasing by 2 percent a year.