Get smart... save money with a water meter
- Credit: Archant
East Anglia's main water supplier is working to manage demand for its product in consultation with customers.
It's an unusual business model: a company wants its customers to cut back on consumption.
In the case of Anglian Water, however, there is a finite if shifting supply of product – and, if demand ever exceeds supply, not only is the business finished, so also potentially are its customers.
So the company, which supplies more than one billion litres of water a day over 4 million customers and to over 120,000 businesses in the eastern counties, has dual objectives: economic and social.
Anglian Water chief executive Peter Simpson explains: 'Starting with the most basic and vital of natural resources, our business underpins the health and wellbeing of our customers, supports growth and prosperity and helps future-proof it against the challenges of climate change and a growing population.'
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Latest forecasts of demographic change in the UK indicate that population and household growth will be mirrored in East Anglia over the next 25 years.
A sustained period of new housing growth, ageing population profiles and a reducing average household size are expected to be key considerations for planners and policy makers, according to Anglian Water.
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As more people will be living in more homes, they will require more water and wastewater services, with the existing geographical disparities between the supply and demand for water projected to become significantly more acute.
Mr Simpson continues: 'Our priority is to manage demand and ensure we have enough water to meet our customers' needs, as well as those of the environment now and in the future.
'We put less water into supply today than in 1989, despite an increase of more than 30pc in the number of properties we serve.
'This is largely due to our industry leading record at waging a war on leakage as well as our investment in helping our customers be more water-wise by installing water meters and other water saving devices in their homes. By the end of 2020 we aim to have 93pc of households metered.
'Demand management continues to be our priority because it meets customer and government expectations to continue to reduce leakage and manage demand, saves water that would otherwise be abstracted from the environment, mitigating deterioration risk, and is required to ensure the reliability, sustainability and affordability of water resources over the long-term.'
At the heart of the strategy is metering.
Using smart new technology and innovation, the company aims to save up to 43 million litres a day by the end of 2025.
In a £250m initiative – part of an £800m total investment up to 2020 – so-called 'smart' meters are being installed across the region, encouraging behaviour change among customers and reducing water usage.
At the same time, a forecast cut in water leakage from pipes will contribute to savings of 30 million litres a day – down from the anticipated 177 million litres a day in 2020 to 147m by 2025.
Jane Taylor, Anglian Water head of customer services, says: 'Water meters are still the best way to save money. The average annual metered bill comes in £171 cheaper than a bill without a meter. It's a win-win because it's free to switch to a meter, and if you change your mind you can switch back, for free, within two years.'
In a smart meter pilot project in Newmarket last year, one customer made savings of £100 a month – all from a leaky toilet valve. Their smart water meter spotted a large spike in their water usage which was investigated by the company's leakage team.
A similar programme around Norwich is imminent, with 11,000 of the new meters due to be piloted in Spixworth, Old Catton, Hellesdon, Blofield and South Walsham, as well as Ranworth and Panxworth.
In the east of England, 82pc of homes now have a meter, with average bills for metered customers of £1.10 per day compared with overall average bills of £1.17 a day.
Paul Valleley, water services director for Anglian Water, says: 'We know leakage matters to our customers, particularly in such a dry region.
'We now have a 300-strong leakage team, working on projects such as our innovative pressure management scheme that dramatically reduces the number of bursts. We've even got drones with thermal imaging cameras finding leaks from the air.'
Last year, Anglian Water discovered more than 8,000 leaks in the region's 37,000km pipe network.
Now Anglian Water is asking customers to have their say on its draft business plan at sites across the region and online.
A company roadshow has already visited Norwich and King's Lynn this month and will also be explaining its plans at:
The East Anglian Game & Country Fair at Euston, near Thetford on Sunday.
Horning Boat Show on Saturday, May 5.
People can also have their say at any time up to Wednesday, May 9 by visiting www.h2oletsgo.com
On average, Anglian Water says customers who choose the meter option will save around £150 on their bill.
Choosing to have a water meter fitted is free and it helps to control water bills – you simply pay for the water you use.
Step 1 You decide to request a meter by completing an online form, calling 03457 919 155 or emailing via www.anglianwater.co.uk/requestameter
Step 2 Anglian Water arranges an appointment and carries out a survey to find the best place to fit the meter. The engineer will also provide advice and free water-saving devices to help save water and money.
Step 3 Your account will be changed to metered-based charges and you will receive a closing unmeasured bill.
If the company cannot fit your meter, a plumber or dig team will attend and make good the area once the ground has settled.