Draft Proposals Published - Water Metering in Areas of Serious Water Stress

Water companies in areas of serious water stress will be able to seek compulsory water metering as part of their long term water resource management plans under draft proposals published today.

The measures, outlined in a consultation by Defra, have been developed by the Water Saving Group. They would add metering to the existing raft of options for companies - alongside more efficient water usage and the development of new resources – in protecting long term security of supply.

Launching the consultation, Environment Minister Ian Pearson said:

“ Water is a natural resource that we must all value, especially in those areas of England where resources are seriously stressed.

“I believe there is an important debate to be had about the role metering can play over and above the efficiencies water companies are already expected to deliver, like meeting their leakage targets and the development of sustainable new resources.

“Metering saves water, on average 10% per household, and in areas of serious water stress metering may be a valuable additional tool in providing security by reducing unnecessary water use and waste.

“There are important issues to be considered, for example the impacts on large low income households, and we will want to look at these carefully.

“From this year, for the first time, water companies' draft water resource management plans will be subject to public consultation and comment. Consumers will have an opportunity for their views on how the plans affect them to be taken into account. But the issue of water stress is pressing and we cannot postpone the debate on metering indefinitely.”

The Water Saving Group is chaired by Ian Pearson and its members include Regina Finn of Ofwat, Barbara Young of the Environment Agency, Yve Buckland of the Consumer Council for Water, and Pamela Taylor of Water UK, as well as representatives from Waterwise, water companies, and Communities and Local Government.

Today's proposals are published in tandem with a consultation by the Environment Agency on the methodology for defining areas of water stress.

Water metering in this country already stands at around 28%, and is increasing by 2% a year. Recently the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee recommended making it easier for water companies in water stressed areas to impose compulsory metering.

There is no suggestion that metering, or any other efficiency measure, should compensate for poor performance on leakage targets for the water companies. In 1997 the Government required Ofwat to establish and enforce economic leakage targets. When it published its report on Security of Supply last year, Ofwat was categorical that it will take action, as it did against Thames Water in 2006, against companies that persistently fail their leakage targets.

The consultation closes on 24 April 2007. Any inclusion of metering in long term management plans would come into effect after the price review 2009.

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