Near universal water metering proposed for England and Wales


Paul Leinster,
Chief Executive,
Environment Agency
Bristol, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — March 30, 2009 – Near universal water metering of households, along with suitable tariffs to provide an incentive to reduce use, are among measures proposed to help protect water resources in England and Wales to 2050 and beyond.

In its new Water Resources Strategy the Environment Agency proposes that in implementing the near universal water metering of households, the most water stressed areas of England should be prioritized, and that there should also be measures to protect vulnerable groups.

Currently approximately 30 percent of households in England and Wales have water meters, and tests have shown that people who have a water meter generally use 10 to 15 percent less water than those without.

The Environment Agency says that water resources are already under pressure in many parts of the country, with the average Briton currently using 148 liters per day, and that water use must be reduced to help avert future shortages due to climate change and population growth

While climate change will lead to more frequent heavy downpours and increase the risk of flooding, overall it is expected to reduce the amount of water available in rivers in England and Wales by 10 to 15 percent by 2050, and up to as much as 80 per cent during summer months.

On top of this the region’s population is expected to increase by 20 million people by 2050, placing further pressure on water supplies.

The target is to reduce water use to an average 130 liters per person per day by 2030.

Other recommendations include a complete review of the way the water industry is regulated, with the introduction of stronger incentives to reward water companies for reducing the amount of water provided. In addition there should be water reduction targets for different categories of use and a reduction of leaks from mains and supply pipes.

Measures to promote water efficient products, including an enhanced and extended water efficiency labelling system for all appliances that use water, and tighter water efficiency standards in planning conditions for new buildings in areas where water resources are under most pressure, should also be introduced.

The Environment Agency notes that near universal water metering of households in England and Wales could reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to between 27 and 40 per cent of the total UK Carbon Reduction Commitment target.

The Environment Agency also notes that smart meters can give consumers better information about the water they use and it urges the water industry to work with the energy industry and meter manufacturers to ensure that the opportunity for interoperability across the two sectors is not lost. Such interoperability would potentially enable efficiency in meter reading, integrated or complementary future tariffs for energy and water, display of multi-utility information in the home and on bills, and future opportunities for retail competition.

“Water is essential for life and vital to our economy, but climate change and population growth mean there may not be enough water in England and Wales in the future for people and the environment unless we start planning and acting now,” said the Environment Agency’s chief executive, Paul Leinster.

“People and businesses need to use less water and wasting water needs to cost a lot more. The proposals in our new strategy cover actions that need to be taken by water companies, government, regulators, businesses and the public, and we need a joined up approach to this problem to prevent it becoming a crisis.”