The government will today outline its proposals for water metering in drought-stricken areas of the country.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced in November it was going ahead with a consultation following work by the Water Saving Group to identify long-term efficiency measures that will help to protect the sustainability of the water supply.
The focus of the group’s proposals is on making water companies in areas of serious water stress consider compulsory meters.
Metering could help to bring down water usage, following the drought that affected much of southern England last summer.
Under the proposals, it could make it easier for water companies to apply for ‘water scarcity status’, allowing them to impose compulsory metering on customers.
But it is not expected the consultation will propose national compulsory water metering and the plans will not be seen as compensating for water companies’ poor performance on leakage targets.
In the long term, a map of ‘water stressed areas’ could be in place by 2009, introducing compulsory metering in regions with a history of supply shortages.
This month, the South East’s record two-year drought, the worst for 73 years, was declared over by Thames Water, Three Valleys Water, Southern Water and Sutton & East Surrey Water – whose combined reach extends from Buckinghamshire, to London, to the Isle of Wight.
They lifted a hosepipe ban which had affected more than 12 million people.
Last summer was one of the driest in recent history, and a number of water companies were forced to apply for drought orders.
Among them was Thames Water, which applied after several months of below average rainfall in its region.
Sutton & East Surrey Water was also granted the order, the first in England and Wales for ten years, by Environment Minister Ian Pearson, allowing it to curb or ban non-essential uses of water in its region.
The Environment Agency said there was a ‘real risk’ of standpipes being introduced in parts of south-east England, and urged water companies, businesses and the public to act to save more water.
At present, some 26 per cent of households have water meters, installed at a cost of around £40. Evidence from trials on the Isle of Wight in the 1990s suggests that they can help bring water usage down by 10-15 per cent.
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