Anglian Water's take on metering

ANGLIAN Water today reiterated its support for water metering.The Government is expected to unveil today the next steps for proposals to accelerate water metering in drought areas.

ANGLIAN Water today reiterated its support for water metering.

The Government is expected to unveil today the next steps for proposals to accelerate water metering in drought areas.

The move follows work by the Department for Environment's Water Saving Group to identify long-term efficiency measures that will help to protect the sustainability of the water supply.

Metering, where householders pay for water used instead of a set charge regardless of consumption, can help cut down waste.

Environment minister Ian Pearson is today expected to launch a consultation on an extension of metering, which could come into effect next year.

Sara Rowland, of Anglian Water, said: “We certainly support the concept of water metering and have done so openly since the early 90s.

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“They have a very important role to play in water conservation

“Now 50per cent of our customers are on metres which is twice the national average.

“Our customers which are on metres save an average of £100 a year on bills and use ten to 15pc less water.

“We don't charge for installation and at the moment have no plans to do so.”

Under the proposals, it would be made easier in the short term for water companies to apply for "water scarcity status", allowing them to impose compulsory metering on customers.

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.

The plan was set out in May in a paper by the Water Saving Group, which brings together Government with representatives of water customers, regulators and the industry.

The paper warned: "Proposals for compulsory metering in water company areas will be controversial and need to be open to public scrutiny. Due consideration needs to be given to the potential impact on customers.''

At present, some 26pc 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 10pc to15 pc.

Hosepipe and sprinkler bans have been in force across the south east for months, and water companies are planning for the possibility of a third dry winter.

However, Water UK says that as we are now entering the vital "recharge period'' underground water supplies should start to recover.

The recharge period runs from around October until March. Colder weather and increased rainfall mean limited plant growth, saturated soils and lower evaporation levels.

This means that water has the opportunity to seep into underground aquifers. While most above-ground reservoirs in the south-east are around average for this time of year, it is a different picture underground.

Apart from the drought risk, population growth in the south-east and increased immigration is putting pressure on the water supplies. Plans for thousands of new homes in the Thames Gateway and other parts of the south-east are also major factors.

Andrew Marsh, spokesman for the Consumer Council for Water, said the proposals expected today were a "common sense'' response to shortages of the type seen this year.

But he said that any introduction of compulsory metering should be accompanied by "substantial'' financial support for the less well-off - particularly large low-income families, who can be expected to lose out from the switch.

"This is a common sense approach because they are concentrating on areas which are generally water-scarce, not just those which had a drought this summer,'' said Mr Marsh.

"Hand in hand with any compulsory metering, we would want some sort of substantial financial support programme. There has to be concern about larger low-income families who would need transitional support.''

Ofwat's head of consumer affairs, Sue Cox, said: "I am pleased that more vulnerable customers than ever before are taking advantage of the help that is available from their water companies. But take-up remains low.

"I would encourage anyone who thinks that they may qualify for a reduced bill under the Vulnerable Groups scheme, or who would like more help with particular needs, to get in touch with their water company.

"We will continue to work with the Consumer Council for Water to ensure companies promote these important services to those who could benefit.''

end Shadow Environment Secretary Peter Ainsworth said: "An extension of water metering may be necessary as a last resort in the most water-stressed areas.

"However, water efficiency is the most effective way to save water at the moment.

"It is bizarre to wait until 2009 to map water-stressed areas - we already know where these areas are because many of us are living in them. The South East, in particular, is under severe water stress and yet water efficiency is being all but ignored under the Government's ambitious housing plans.

"The Government has a commitment to building sustainable housing in the South East: it is time they honoured this commitment.''

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