WaterVoice, an organisation that represents the interests of customers in England and Wales in respect of price, service and value for money, has released a policy statement acknowledging that in the long term most customers should pay water and sewerage bills on the basis of a metered supply.
Only 26% of customers have a water meter at present, with only one large utility – Anglian Water – having a majority of customers (54%) using a water meter. WaterVoice believes that metering has an important part to play in encouraging water conservation, minimising wastage, addressing leakage and reducing the demand for water. It explains that a move towards universal metering in the short to medium term would make most sense in the south and east of England, where water resources are most stretched, and suggests that companies could expand selective metering – for example through metering on change of occupancy.
However, WaterVoice acknowledges that there are a number of hurdles to clear before proceeding to universal metering, including the need to assist customers who are unable to pay their bills. Other issues to be addressed involve gaining customer acceptance of metering; practical and operational matters such as meter location, difficulties in installation and meter reading frequency; tariff issues such as the differences between measured and unmeasured customers; and customer protection, particularly in relation to customers’ responsibility for supply pipes, leaks and repairs.
The water industry in England and Wales is moving towards competition, and a consultation document on the rules and regulations of the new competition framework has been published. Competition is expected to be introduced in autumn 2005.