Water meters for 90% of local homes

Contributed by editor on Mar 01, 2006 - 08:58 PM


Folkestone and District Water Services (FDWS) who supply 50 million litres of water a day to 165,000 people in the drought-hit south east has become the first company to win permission to start compulsory metering of its supplies under legislation introduced six years ago.

They will be able to start fitting the meters to homes in the south east Kent area it serves after successfully applying for "area of water scarcity status".

The company, owned by French utility Veolia, plans to introduce meters to 90 percent of its customers' homes over the next 10 years, up from 40 percent at present.

It estimates that metered homes use around 12.5 % less water than those on an unmeasured supply.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ruling only affects a small number of homes in Kent, but it is likely to encourage other water companies to follow suit. 

And announcing the ruling today, environment minister Elliot Morley hinted that compulsory metering could be extended to other UK regions in the near future as a result of growing concern over long-term water supply shortages. 

Mr Morley said: "Folkestone and Dover will face increasing difficulty over the next ten 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." 

"In many parts of the country water is a precious resource which we can no longer simply take for granted," he said. 

Amid concerns that metering could lead to a sharp increase in water bills, the minister said he would pay "particular attention" to the effect the changes would have on elderly and vulnerable customers. 

Folkestone and Dover Water Services claims the introduction of meter-based billing would see the majority of households pay the same or less than under the current system.

South east England is suffering its most serious drought in 100 years, with little rain falling over the region since November 2004.

Reservoirs in the area are at less than half their capacity at a time when they should be full as the country emerges from winter.