Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Water metering to become an option in long term plans
Water companies in areas of serious water stress will be able to seek compulsory water metering as part of their 25 year forward plans, Environment Minister Phil Woolas announced today.
The proposal, developed by the Water Saving Group, adds metering to the existing raft of options for companies - alongside developing new resources - for ensuring long term security of supply. Today's move follows consultation with companies, regulators, charities and members of the public. The Environment Agency is publishing its response to a parallel consultation on defining areas of water stress today.
Phil Woolas said:
"The terrible flooding we have seen recently came after more than two years of severe drought in some parts of the country. As the impacts of climate change on our weather and rainfall patterns increase, we have to face up to the fact that what we might now consider to be extremes could become more commonplace. We need a flexible range of tools at our disposal if we are to manage supplies sustainably in the future.
"Metering saves water - around 10% per household - and it seems right to me that in seriously water-stressed areas the costs and benefits of compulsory metering are given consideration alongside other options.
"This is not a green light for universal metering, and it in no way absolves companies from their responsibility to deliver on leakage targets. Water companies will have to make a strong case in their 25 year forward plans for compulsory metering in their region to get approval to go ahead, demonstrating that metering offers the best value for water customers' money compared with the other options available, such as building new reservoirs. They will have to take into account the impacts on individual customers and particularly on vulnerable households. Their draft plans will be open to public consultation, so everyone in an affected area will have the chance to make their views known".
Inclusion of metering in long term management plans will come into effect after the price review 2009.
Households use almost 70% of the billed water supplied by companies in England and Wales, with the rest used by the business and public sectors.
Average per capita consumption in England and Wales in 2005/06 was approximately 150 litres per person per day. Total household demand has been increasing for some years and this increase is expected to continue. The predicted increase in demand is a result both of projections of increases in per capita consumption and expected increases in numbers of households.
Notes for Editors
1. Water metering in England and Wales currently stands at around 30% and is increasing by 2% a year.
2. 58 responses to the water metering consultation were received. A summary is published at http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/naturalenvironment.htm
3. Responses to the Environment Agency's consultation on defining areas of water stress are published at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk
4. A House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report recommending that it be made easier for water companies in water stressed areas to impose compulsory metering was published on 6 June 2006 and is available at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldsctech/ldsctech.htm
5. In April 2007 the Government placed water companies under a duty to produce and consult upon water resource management plans. Ministers will be able to direct the content of plans. Draft plans will be consulted upon in 2008 and finalised in 2009. Ministers can require public hearings on the draft plans, and can direct changes before they are published in final form.
6. The Water Saving Group is a Defra-led stakeholder group with key water industry stakeholders working together to improve water efficiency in households. The high level group is chaired by Phil Woolas, Minister for the Environment. It meets every six months and 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. For more information on the WSG visit http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/water/conserve/wsg/index.htm
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