Meter powers not necessary

Water companies in East Anglia are set to get powers for compulsory metering, but say they have no current plans to use them.

Water companies in East Anglia are set to get powers for compulsory metering, but say they have no current plans to use them.

The region has been designated as an area of “serious water stress” which means that it can apply to put water meters in every home that does not already have one.

Anglian Water has not decided whether it will make use of the new rules, but it says it is unlikely that it will need to. Essex and Suffolk Water says that it may make meters compulsory in Essex after 2015, but does not think it will need to do so in Suffolk.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has made proposals for simplifying the process of making water meters compulsory. Twelve water companies across the east and south of England have been given permission to apply for the measure. To get approval they will have to convince environment secretary Hilary Benn that the measure is essential - but they cannot apply for it until 2009, in which case installation of meters would follow a year later. They can also include the proposal in the 25-year plans which they must submit to government.

Thirty per cent of homes nationally have water meters, but the figure is double that in Anglian Water's area. New homes are routinely built with meters fitted.

Anglian Water spokesman Colette Nicholls said: “We need to look at the report ourselves and digest it and consider our response. We have managed well for the last few years. Last year then there was a drought we could have introduced a hosepipe ban if we wanted but we didn't feel the need to. Since 1991 when the last hosepipe ban was held in this region we have been working very hard to make consumers aware of the benefits of water meters and the potential to save money.”

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The average yearly bill for metered Anglian Water customers is £299, compared with between £345 and £417 for unmetered customers.

Martin Lunn, supply and demand strategy manager for Essex and Suffolk Water, said: “We are actively considering it but we don't think it will be necessary to apply it to Essex until 2015. In Suffolk we don't see the need to bring in compulsory metering.”

He said this was because in Essex a programme of selective metering was already happening, putting meters in homes between one occupant moving out and the next moving in, which will increase the number of water meters by 3pc between now and 2015. By the end of this year 40pc of Essex homes will have meters. In Suffolk 54pc of homes have meters and they had not needed to use selective metering.

“For some reason people in Suffolk love water meters,” he said. He said 60pc of customers saved money with a meter, 20pc paid more and 20pc paid about the same.

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