Water companies have been set targets to introduce water meters to around half of UK homes by 2015. But is this really the best solution for everyone – and can it actually help to reduce water waste?
Just over a third of us have a water meter – and those who don’t can give one a go, returning it with no hard feelings if it doesn’t work out.
But if meters are made compulsory, as they are in some parts of the South of England, there’ll be no going back for those who end up worse off.
The pros and cons of metering
It’s easy to see why a nationwide rollout is supported by organisations like the RSPB; the effects of water depletion on fragile habitats can be catastrophic, and pure wastefulness is at least partly to blame.
The idea is that water meters would quantify our water use in the cold, hard cash terms that we understand, and provide a tangible reason to be wiser with our water.
But issues like leaky pipes left unfixed make it difficult to swallow water company rhetoric about the value of water.
Will water meters suit everyone?
On top of that, metering is not a universal fix. Average consumption in Germany – where all water is metered – is around 30% lower than in the UK. But in the United States (where water is also metered) usage is more than double the UK average per person per day.
According to the Consumer Council for Water, one in six already struggles to afford their water charges. The danger of imposing compulsory metering is that some larger, more vulnerable, families will be worse off and may not be able to afford the increased charges imposed.
While metering might make us more aware of the water we use, is it the best way to cut consumption? And would it be fair to impose meters on everyone?