Water meters set to be in 80% of homes by 2020Review calls for meter when you move home

10 December 2009

Water meter

If you have more bedrooms than people in your house, a water meter will probably save you money

Up to 80% of homes should be fitted with water meters by 2020 to encourage people to use water more efficiently, says an independent review commissioned by the government.

The Independent Review of Charging for Household Water and Sewerage Services looked at the way consumers currently pay for water and sewerage services in England and Wales.

As well as recommending a massive increase in the use of water meters, the review calls for meters to be always installed in properties when people move, and in households with particularly high water consumption.

Our has advice on how to use less water.

Switching to a water meter

Around 35% of homes currently have water meters, which charge users for the amount of water they use rather than by the rateable value of their home.

All homes in England and Wales are currently entitled to a free water meter on request, unless it's deemed unreasonably expensive or impractical to fit one.

This system means most water meters are fitted for those who feel they could save money by installing one.

The independent review says this is an expensive way of making the transition to metered water supplies. It argues that as those who use less water typically switch to water meters, cross-subsidy in the current rateable value system is unwinding.

Those who remain unmetered (often those on low income) already have higher bills and will see their bills rise even if average bills are not changing.

Water review recommendations

The independent review also made other recommendations.

  • Water consumers should pay for improvements to the water and sewerage system, but should also have more say about quality improvements and their costs.
  • More effective action should be taken against consumers who do not pay their water bills, to prevent these costs being met by other water consumers.
  • A national water efficiency campaign should be introduced to educate consumers how to use water more wisely.
  • Household customers should be given incentives to minimise the amount of water from their properties which goes into the public sewer. 
  • Highways authorities should play a more significant role in managing water drainage on public roads.

Review leader Anna Walker said: 'A combination of significant population growth, the effects of climate change and the need to renew what is often Victorian infrastructure will put increasing pressure on both the availability and the cost of water. 

'We need to tackle these challenges now, before they become major problems. The charging system can play an important role in this.'

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