Compulsory water metering no substitute for ensuring supply and reducing leaks
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has said that Government plans to make it easier for water companies to introduce compulsory metering are no substitute for water companies reducing leaks and investing in capacity to ensure supply.
The MP's comments followed the Government's announcement last Thursday (16 August) that it will be made easier for water companies in areas of serious water stress, such as the South East, to seek compulsory water metering as part of their 25 year forward plans for ensuring long term security of supply.
The proposals will see metering added to the existing range of options for water companies - alongside developing new resources - for reducing and preventing water shortages.
Up until now, only one water company in the country, Folkestone and Dover Water, has applied for compulsory metering in their supply area with the aim of 90 per cent of their domestic customers having a water meter by 2015.
The Government's announcement follows what was, before the recent rain, the driest period in the South East since the 1930s and the worst drought since 1976. The drought saw the region's reservoirs and underground water resources reach record low levels with a hosepipe ban in place across the region from June 2005 to January 2007.
Despite water saving initiatives which have seen customers saving more than 43 million litres of a day compared to two years ago, pressure on water supplies in West Sussex will continue to grow, with the Government planning to impose at least 58,000 new houses on the county by 2026.
Leakage from an ageing water supply system continues to be a major problem across the country. Water companies haemorrhage 3.4 billion litres of water a day, enough to meet the daily needs of 21 million domestic customers.
Locally, Southern Water, while meeting its industry targets, continues to lose 82 million litres of water a day - enough for half a million domestic customers' use.
The Government's announcement that metering could be used as a tool to help ensure supply came in the same week that John Redwood, who is in charge of the Conservative Party's Economic Competitiveness Policy Review Group, highlighted "the chronic lack of capacity in the UK's basic service networks" and the fact that water companies "allow as much as a quarter of their product to be lost en route from reservoir to tap" and "are happy to ration their customers in dry years."
Commenting on the Government's announcement, Nick Herbert said: "I accept that compulsory water metering could have a role to play, although we need to think carefully about the impact on the poorest families. But I don't think that demand management is the only answer. Metering shouldn't be a substitute for what the water companies should be doing - investing in additional capacity so that they don't have to ration people, and dealing with leaks.
"This has been such a dreadfully wet year that we forget that we had hosepipe ban last summer and were close to even more severe measures. With at least 58,000 new houses planned for West Sussex over the next two decades, this isn't an issue which is likely to go away."
Notes to Editors
1. The Government's announcement can be seen at http://nds.coi.gov.uk/content/detail.aspx?NewsAreaId=2&ReleaseID=308111&SubjectId=16&AdvancedSearch=true.