Millions of families across the south of England could be affected by a landmark ruling allowing a water company to install compulsory water meters.
Kent-based Water supply company Folkestone and Dover Water Services was today given ‘water scarcity status’ by Environment Minister Elliot Morley.
This makes it the first water company in England and Wales to be granted the power to make water meters compulsory. Experts believe other water companies will follow suit.
Water companies have the right to ask the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to give them permission to impose meters in order to conserve dwindling supplies in their area.
Folkestone and Dover Water Services wants to install the meters in 65,000 homes. The area it serves is one of the driest parts of the UK, and the company lacks major surface water sources such as reservoirs.
Last month Mr Morley said he also expected further applications from other water companies across the south of England.
The water consumer body the Consumer Council for Water welcomed the new powers given to Folkestone and Dover, and said other companies may follow its lead. But it warned that large families would be hit and called for financial help through benefits or credits.
Folkestone and Dover Water Services Managing Director David Walton said: ‘One of the main advantages that water scarcity status will bring is to allow the company to achieve its target of having 90 per cent of customers metered by 2015, through the introduction of compulsory metering on a phased basis. This will bring very significant water savings as typically metered homes use 10 per cent less water.’
Folkestone and Dover Water Services’ phased metering programme will begin next year, and installation is free. Customers can contact the company on 01303 298800.