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Report recommends more homeowners use water meters

December 18, 2009 at 4:16 pm

A new approach to reducing the amount of water that England uses has been recommended in a report for the Department of the Environment and Welsh Assembly. It suggests that many more homes should have water meters installed, as they make homeowners more aware of how much water they are really using, and therefore better at saving it.

35% of people already use water meters, but the majority use the rateable value (RV) method of charging. The report asserted that the RV system was “out of date” and did not encourage homeowners to save water.

Typically 10% to 15% less water is used in houses with water meters than in those without. Because they only measure the volume of water used, it is seen as a fair approach to charging. Like gas meters, the charge is worked out by checking the reading on the meter.

It is recommended that by 2020 80% of homeowners in England use water meters. It is not recommended that they be made mandatory, however.

The meters are currently provided free of charge by the water companies, but cost approximately £200 to fit.

According to the Environment Agency, water shortages are a serious issue in many areas across England. Around 25 million people live in a region where there is less obtainable water per person than in Morocco or Spain. The UK also has fewer water meters than the majority of other economically developed countries.

The report also recommends that the Government helps low-income households to decide whether or not to switch over, as bills are often higher in homes with meters.

While the environmental benefits of water meters are clear, there are potential drawbacks for the individual. The Government is therefore being cautious. Huw Irranca-Davies, Environment Minister, said that the suggestions would be considered “carefully”, and that there would be “full public consultation”.

Meanwhile, there are many simple ways in which we can lower the amount of water we use. We can mend dripping taps, forego our garden hoses, choose to have a shower (not a bath) for a maximum of five minutes, and use a standard shower rather than a less cost-effective power shower.

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Water bill reduction smaller than expected

December 11, 2009 at 11:24 am

As part of its five-yearly price review, the water industry regulator, Ofwat, has announced that the average reduction in household water bills in England and Wales for the next five years will be £3 (a one per cent reduction) rather than its previous estimate of £14. The average annual water bill for the period 2010 to 2015 will be £340.

Not all parts of the country will see a reduction in their water bills and there are large regional differences between water suppliers. Customers of Essex and Suffolk Water, Bristol Water, Southern Water and Thames Water will all see their bills rise. The worst hit households will be those without a water meter. Some of these bills will rise by as much as 29 per cent. By the time the current five-year review period comes to an end in 2015 Wessex Water will have the highest bills with an average of £424 per home per year. Severn Trent Water will be the cheapest at £292 on average.

The water companies had lobbied to put up bills by 3 per cent and they say that they may be forced now to reduce the work on maintenance of the water supply. The GMB Union is concerned that the new price structure may mean that some water companies will look to outsource jobs and cut the UK workforce. The Consumer Council for Water, on the other hand, is concerned that some customers will now face higher bills. The Council also plans to challenge Ofwat over what it sees as unfair increases to households that have an unmetered water supply.

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