Millions more homeowners may be forced to have a water meter installed — and face the threat of higher bills if they refuse.
The number of water suppliers which could soon be allowed to install a meter without asking the billpayer first has now doubled, say the Environment Agency.
But fitting one of the devices can see your charges rise or fall. Here, Money Mail explains what it might mean for you and your bills.
Coming soon? The number of water suppliers allowed to install a meter without asking the billpayer first has now doubled, according to the Environment Agency
More than 60 per cent of households have a water meter installed.
Seven more water firms can now apply to make meters mandatory for the six million households they supply.
This includes Cambridge Water, Portsmouth Water, South Staffordshire Water, Severn Trent Water, Veolia Water, Wessex Water and South West Water.
The Environment Agency says this is because the areas they operate in have been identified as ‘water stressed’ — where demand is too high compared to rainfall.
Water meters can be installed outside the property in the street, so you do not need to let an engineer into your home to have one.
If a supplier rolls out compulsory meters and a device can only be installed inside your home, such as in some properties that have been converted into flats, you may be charged more if you refuse.
For instance, customers who deny Thames Water access to their property for fitting a meter will be put on its ‘no-access charge’ tariff, which is £661 a year. The average customer pays £420.
More than three billion litres are lost to leakage every day across England and Wales: 20 pc of water put into the public water supply. Yesterday Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, warned of water shortages in decades to come.
Will it cost more?
With a water meter, how much you pay depends on what you use. Those without one pay a fixed fee made up of a standing charge and another rate based on the rental value of a property used by local authorities between 1967 and 1990.
It means if you use less water than the size of your property suggests, you could save with a meter.
As a general rule, if there are more bedrooms than people living in your home, it may cut your bills if you switch.
The average household with Essex & Suffolk Water pays £219 with a meter, or £295 without. While Portsmouth Water says the average bill for a four-person household is £107 a year unmetered, and £113 with one.
When James Walker, 47, was forced to get a water meter six years ago his monthly bills almost tripled. He initially paid £45 a month to Southern Water but it increased to £80, then to £111.
James, who lives with his wife and three children in a four-bedroom semi-detached house in Winchester, says: ‘We got a letter telling us we would have the meter installed. It was not a debate.
Factors: Whether a meter will cost or save you depends on how many people live in your house, how much water you use and your supplier
‘It was a nice pitch about how it would put us in control of our usage and also included water-saving tips. But we were not expecting our bills to increase this much, which is far beyond standard price rises.’
In Severn Trent’s region the average household water and sewerage bill is about £363. On a meter, watchdog the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) suggests a single person living alone in the area would pay £235, whereas a couple would have a bill of £365. A family of four and six would be charged £520 and £895.
Karen Gibbs, from the CCW, says: ‘Many customers will find they can financially benefit from moving to a water meter but for those that are likely to pay more we expect companies to provide support with the transition.’
Where are they?
Water meter use varies across the country. For example, 41 per cent of households supplied by Northumbrian Water have one, compared to 88 per cent in Southern Water’s region.
Companies including Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, SES Water and Affinity Water have either completed or are in the process of introducing compulsory meters. Portsmouth Water says it will roll out a similar scheme from 2025.
Wessex Water says it has no plans to adopt a compulsory policy. It supplies 1.3 million customers, of which around 70 per cent are metered. Veolia Water, with 10,000 domestic customers, has no plans to force meters on households.
Use a washing-up bowl and put waste water on your plants. Also consider a water butt to collect rainwater. They can store 200 litres, to be used in the garden.
Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth: a tap left running wastes six litres of water a minute.
A five-minute shower uses around half the volume of a standard bath. If you must bathe, consider an inch less water, which will save you around five litres.
Only use the dishwasher or washing machine on full loads. Half-load settings use more than half the energy and water.
- Find out if you’ll be better off using a water meter with watchdog the Consumer Council for Water’s (CCW) calculator. Visit ccwater.org.uk/watermetercalculator
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