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Are you paying for your neighbour’s water?

April 24, 2009 at 4:42 am

This year the Environment Agency has made the ambitious announcement that it plans to have every UK household fitted with water meters in the next 25 years. It’ll help save the planet and our wallets, so they say. But would you be so keen to switch to the pay-as-you-go method if you thought it would result in you coughing up cash for water used by your neighbours? If they have four kids and you have none then you could see hundreds of pounds suddenly landing on your statement. So where’s it going wrong?

When someone informs their water company of their desire to have a water meter installed, some water companies are not installing the meters correctly, or not adjusting the meter that’s already rigged up to the mains. The meter can either be shared between two or more houses or sometimes be connected to completely the wrong house. Consequently, when some customers have found a very expensive bill on their doormat they haven’t been met with much sympathy from some water boards, who have insisted customers remove the manhole themselves to prove there’s a problem with the water flow. Although compensation is being offered to some customers, the point is there really shouldn’t be this issue at all. A man in Colchester has been paying for a neighbour’s water for nearly ten years.

The industry regulator Ofwat has said there hasn’t been cause for a full investigation yet, based on the amount and severity of complaints. But they have said that if customers doubt the validity of their bill then they should contact their water supplier. If they don’t get much help from them then they should have a look at CCWater, where more information on your water supply can be found.

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EA suggests water meters for all

April 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm

The EA (Environment Agency) has stated that the UK could face severe water shortages in the future due to the effects of climate change unless tough action is taken now to prevent it.

The news came upon the release of the EA’s Water Sources Strategy document. The main findings of the report were that, if nothing is done to combat water shortages, numerous rivers could dry up by the middle of the century, leading to severe shortages. One of the ways in which this could be combated is to make water meters compulsory in every home within the next 20 years.

Global warming and high water usage could see some rivers in the Thames area experience 50-80% cuts in flows at certain times of year, which would be devastating for the area. As well as compulsory water meters, the EA has also suggested that changes are needed in the industry and that desalination plants should be created along the British coastline.

In findings that may be surprising to many, the report also highlighted that water is responsible for 6% of all CO2 emissions in the UK, which arise from the treatment of sewage and the heating of water in the home. This is a greater contribution than that made by the entire aviation industry.

Each of us currently uses 148 litres of water a day, which is one of highest levels in Europe. The EA states that this needs to be cut to 130 a day or even less. Water meters have been proven to generally cut water usage by 15% in households that use them, and could therefore play a massive role in achieving this target.

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Are water bills heading up for 2009?

April 9, 2009 at 4:46 am

This won’t be good news for many, but it looks as though tough times may become even tougher where household bills are concerned. Water is the next industry to increase its bills in 2009. If you’ve already seen your gas and electricity bill go up in the past year, then you might see your water bill doing the same before Christmas.

Following a study by the website USwitch.com, it’s predicted that water bills in the UK could rise by up to £13 a year, which works out at roughly 4.1%. This might not sound like a huge jump but, as we all know by now, it all adds up. Add the £13 rise to the average yearly water bill and you end up with a figure of £343.

The problem with water bills is that customer’s hands are well and truly tied for the most part. Unlike gas, electricity and all other household expenses, we don’t have a choice on who provides our water and sewage so we can’t shop around for a better deal. The only thing we can do is go from flat-rate charges to water meters and this is exactly what the Environment Agency have urged us all to consider this month.

Only 35% of us have a meter linked to our homes at the moment in the UK. The rest pay on the basis of the size of their homes, which is often not the best measure of how much water is actually used. If there are only two people in a four-bedroom house, for example, then the water bill could be much more than what is actually used. Water meters could be the answer for cutting down bills and they could save us all some extra money during these tough times. If you switch to a meter and, within the first year, you find you’re actually paying more than you were, then you can happily change back to a flat-rate bill again.

There might be some help for customers in the form of tax and benefit system from the government but, the industry regulator, Ofwat, are very worried for those households on low incomes this year. They have announced that they actually expected to see bills go even higher had a cap not been introduced in 2004. It might be worth looking at how a meter could save you a few extra pounds in 2009.

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Food chain at threat from water usage in food production in the UK

April 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm

We all know what a ‘carbon footprint’ is but something we might not know about is our ‘water footprint’. When it comes to the production and consumption of food, it is something a leading government food advisor adamantly believes is just as much of a problem in the long term as carbon.

Professor Tim Lang was the man behind the term ‘food miles’, which is the total mileage our food travels from field to plate. The biggest traveller for us in the UK comes from the very food we are all urged to eat more of everyday: fresh fruit and vegetables. The supermarkets can’t resist buying in bulk from the cheaper suppliers abroad, no matter how loudly people like Prof Lang and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver shout. The growing concern now being highlighted by Prof Lang, though, is the vast over-use of water throughout the whole process of food production.

When a cow is grazing in the fields, for example, the amount of water that is needed to water the pasture, to give to the animal to drink, to use in the pasteurisation process for its milk, to use in the production process of the slaughter etc, eventually equates to roughly 550 litres of water for just 1 pint of milk and a colossal 1800 litres for just 1 beef burger. It’s a shocking set of statistics and Professor Lang is urging people to cut down on the amount of dairy and meat they all eat, just as they might with the amount of flights they board.

There are many ways that farming can help to bring down a country’s carbon footprint. Organic farms, which use no fertilizers at all, mean the chemicals emitted in their production are eradicated. The packaging, transportation and chilled storage of foods can also emit a large amount of carbon into the air, so fresh food is the answer here. Even the methane produced by cattle adds up in the long run. Prof Lang’s voice is apparently being heard by DEFRA, but will this matter be taken as seriously as carbon?

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