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Water meters ‘may become compulsory’

Enforced metering would charge for water used

Dripping tap

Water meters may be enforced on all UK homes as part of the government’s bid to meet targets to curb water waste.

More than a third of customers in England and Wales pay for metered water, but targets have been set for water companies to increase this figure to 50% by 2015.

Water industry watchdog Ofwat estimates that a water meter can reduce household water consumption by 9-21% – but meters aren’t necessarily a quick fix. 

Not cheaper for everyone

Meters can help cut water use by making consumers more aware of the amount of water they’re using. But while some can and do save money from meters, others – particularly large families – may see their bills rise if meters become compulsory. This means some of those that can least afford higher bills may find they have to pay more.

Consumer Council for Water’s policy manager Karen Gibbs said: ‘Before rushing to change the charging system, companies and regulators need to consider the impact on their customers and how downsides might be addressed as well as the potential benefits that water metering might bring about.’

While metering is intended to encourage awareness of water consumption, alone it is insufficient to reduce water use. Average consumption in Germany – where all water is metered – is around 30% lower than in the UK, but water use in the United States – where water is also metered – is more than double the UK average per person per day.

Free water meter trials

Most people can trial a water meter free of charge for up to a year, then decide to switch back to the old rateable charge if they find they’re spending more money. Once water meters are compulsory – as they are in some parts of southern England – you won’t have chance to revert back to unmeasured charges.

Reducing the amount of water you use is only possible if you make an active effort to save water. See our how to use less water guide for money-saving tips and advice on tried and tested water-saving gadgets.

There are many ways to reduce your water consumption without buying new products or gadgets. Our guide to water saving products shows you some of the most water-efficient appliances, and also advises on how you can save water by using your current machines.

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