No to universal water metering in England


Caroline Spelman,
Secretary of State
Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — December 9, 2011 – A blanket approach to metering across England and Wales will not be imposed and water companies are best placed to find the appropriate local solution in discussion with their customers, the government has decided.

However, as the climate changes and the population grows, the case for universal metering may change, but will do so at different times for different areas.

This is one of the conclusions in the White Paper Water for Life, which was released yesterday aimed at offering a vision for the country’s future water management.

Water metering is considered in the context of demand management and specifically meeting the target of reducing the average demand to 130 l per head per day by 2030. There are wide variations in average consumption across the country, with some resource zones already at or below the 130 l level. Water companies also face different levels of water stress and risks and uncertainties around climate change. As a result the costs and benefits of increasing levels of water metering to help reduce demand will vary from region to region.

Nevertheless water companies in water stressed areas and where the demand is above average will be expected to produce a plan that will deliver overall demand reductions in the first five years. Looking further ahead, all water resource management plans will be expected to demonstrate the demand trend is significantly downward.

Currently about 37 percent of households in Britain have a water meter, and under current water company plans this will increase to around a half by 2015, the white paper notes. Non metered households are charged for water and sewerage on the basis of the rateable value of their home.

The white paper also notes that government is interested in the potential of smart water meters to improve water company network management and encourage more sustainable water use by consumers. It is looking to companies to demonstrate the business case for implementation with the agreement of their customers.

Another aspect covered in the white paper is the affordability of water, in particular to low income consumers and in the southwest where the water bills are the highest in the country. A final guidance will be published on the introduction of social tariffs to enable water companies to offer more support to customers at risk of affordability problems. The government will fund South West Water to enable it to cut bills by £50 per year for all household customers until at least the end of the next spending review period.

More generally a package of reforms also will be introduced to extend competition in the water sector by increasing choice for business customers and public sector bodies and by making the market more attractive to new entrants.

Commenting, the secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Caroline Spelman wrote: “The white paper describes a vision for future water management in which the water sector is resilient, in which water companies are more efficient and customer focused, and in which water is valued as the precious resource it is.

“We must act now to make the changes needed to keep our rivers flowing and our water supplies reliable and affordable.”