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Delivering a sustainable water supply: government gives company wider powers to meter

Defra : 01 March, 2006  (Company News)
The first water company to apply to the Government for the right to compulsorily meter all its customers has been given the go-ahead today. Folkestone and Dover Water Services' successful application for 'area of water scarcity' status means it will be able to accelerate its programme of switching household customers over to water meters.
That programme is at present mainly voluntary. The company could then charge all its customers according to how much water they use. The move is designed to help the company match limited supplies to increasing demands for water over the next 10 years as part of its longer term water resources planning strategy.

Elliot Morley, Environment Minister, said:

'In many parts of the country water is a precious resource which we can no longer simply take for granted. Today's decision is a considered response to the specific long term challenges facing Folkestone and Dover water company; it is not a reaction to the short term problem of low rainfall in the south east of England.

'Folkestone and Dover will face increasing difficulty over the next 10 years in matching its limited water resources to the growing amount of water used. Metering will have an important role to play in helping to reduce this demand as well as sending a signal about the benefits of water saving.

'I will be paying particular attention to the sensitive introduction of meters to households and to the effects on customer bills, especially of those least able to pay. The vulnerable groups scheme already in place will provide protection from high metered bills for customers with large families or certain medical conditions who are in receipt of certain benefits. I am encouraged by work done by the company which suggests that at least 70% of the customers to be metered will pay the same or less with a metered supply.'

The company expects to increase the number of households metered in its area from the present 40% to 90% over the next 10 years. The company estimates that metering these households can reduce their water use by 10-15%.

The view of the Environment Agency is that an increase in metering could provide about half the margin of supply over demand that the company needs by 2015.

Metering should be viewed as only part of the solution. The company is also expected to follow other measures, including exploring new sources, minimising leakage and encouraging water efficiency. The Government welcomes the steps taken by Folkestone and Dover Water Services in this direction and urges it to continue to do more.

Mr Morley added:

'Using water efficiently and sensibly is a matter for us all. We must work with water companies, regulators and customer representatives to tackle the long-term challenge of water saving in the south east of England. The Government recognises that water metering can encourage people to use water more wisely, and is also the fairest way to pay for water, based as it is on how much is used'.

Last October, the Government set up the Water Saving Group to look at the medium and long term challenges of water use. Part of this work involves looking at the contribution metering can make to managing water demand.

It is for other companies with long term water supply concerns to consider making their own applications for water scarcity status. Each application will be judged on a case by case basis.
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