A case for Water Meters

Nov. 20, 2006 – Today, the Environment Minister Ian Pearson said that, due to climate change, there is clearly an issue with water stress in particular areas. He added that the Government will consult on a proposal that water metering should be considered in areas of water stress, particular in the South East. The consultation will start early next year to identify long-term efficiency measures to help protect the sustainability of water supply.

Ofwat(1) has already highlighted the plight of Britain’s water resources. The water watchdog warned that water companies must also look beyond the drought to ensure that supplies are safeguarded for the future. They will need to continue to encourage efficient use of water, including the use of metering where appropriate, develop new water resources where they are required, and manage leakage efficiently.

In a snap-poll(2) of Fool.co.uk readers, over 70% of respondents said they were in favour of compulsory water metering. One reader said, “Paying for what you use is the only sensible way to charge for water and sewerage”. The reader added, “With two people in a house of fairly high rateable value, changing to a meter led to a reduction of about two-thirds in our water and sewerage charges.”

But not everyone agreed. Another reader said, “Most of the UK has no problem at all with water supply. And we do not want London-centric solutions to problems the rest of us do not have imposed on the whole country thank you very much.”

David Kuo, Head of Personal Finance at www.fool.co.uk says: “Compulsory water metering can be an emotive issue, but the prospect of water restrictions may be even more unpleasant.

“The problem that water companies face is that many of us pay a flat charge according to the rateable value of our homes. In fact, only 28% of UK households have a water meter installed. Consequently, they have a financial incentive to curb their water consumption.

“The upshot is that almost three-quarters of British homes can afford to use water without restraint in the knowledge that they will not have to pay more than their flat annual charge.

“This cannot be right given that water is a precious commodity. What’s more, while water may appear plentiful in many regions now, it is possible that demand for potable water in some areas may eventually outstrip supply.

“The best way to curb demand is to make everyone accountable for what they use. So it is time for the Government stop pussyfooting around and seriously consider compulsory water metering, however unpalatable it may seem.”

-ENDS-

For further information and/or to arrange an interview with David Kuo, please contact:

Sonia Rehill
PR Manager
DD: 020 7297 8159
soniar@fool.co.uk

Notes to Editors:

1. Ofwat website http://www.ofwat.gov.uk/ PN 33/06: Water companies should prepare for another dry winter.
2. Poll conducted between 17 and 20 November 2006 with 100 respondents.

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