Thames Water is beginning a programme to install water meters at all the properties it serves.
Currently around 30% of its customers are on meters. By 2030 the company aims to have metered 100% of connections in its region.
The scheme, which is starting in Bexley, southeast London, will be the first in the UK to use “smart” water meters connected to a wireless network, enabling residents to monitor their usage online.
Thames Water will fully support customers to help them save water, energy and money. This includes giving everyone two years before they are moved on to a metered bill, unless they want to switch early and cash-in on the savings, and providing practical support including fitting free water-saving devices that can help reduce a home’s water use by up to a quarter.
The new technology gives customers more control over their water use, and it is hoped it will encourage the firm’s 3.5 million households to be more water-efficient in a region – London and the Homes Counties – described by the Environment Agency as “seriously water-stressed.”
Research has found that metered customers use water more sparingly than unmeasured customers: people pay for what they use, value what they pay for and so tend to use less.
The new meters being installed can automatically collect water usage data every 15 minutes, giving customers in-depth information on how much water they use, as well as more accurate bills.
They will also give Thames Water a more detailed understanding of where water is being used, and in what quantities, across its 20,000-mile network of water mains, enhancing its ability to pinpoint and tackle leakage.
Leaks on customers’ pipes account for a quarter of leakage in the company’s supply area. So the meter installation will include an initial check for leaks. Meter readings will also be monitored automatically to detect any periods of continual usage (which often indicates a leak). Any leaks detected by these methods, or by customers themselves, will be repaired free of charge.
The company’s metering programme will be carried out borough by borough, with work starting in Bexley from early 2014. By mid-2015, 73% of customers in Bexley will have a water meter – up from 27% of homes today.
Bexley’s water supply comes from boreholes into groundwater feeding the River Darent, an important chalk stream supporting local wildlife habitats. Fitting more meters in the area should reduce the amount of water that needs to be taken from the boreholes and reduce pressure on the river.
Steve Plumb, Thames Water’s head of metering, said:
“We all have a vital role to play in reducing demand for water, but first everyone needs to understand what they are using. That’s why we’re fitting smart meters across our region as by knowing more we can all waste less.”
“Our plan to meter all connections in our area was approved by the Government in June 2012 and we are now ready to start the roll out. By using smart meters we will be putting our customers in greater control of their bills, using the most advanced technology.”
“Britain is the only country in the developed world without universal water metering or a plan to achieve it. With London being classified as ‘seriously water-stressed’ by the Environment Agency, and with customers using a third more water than they did 30 years ago, it is really important we act now.”
“Metering is the fairest way to pay for water because you pay for what you use, value what you pay for and as a result tend to use water more efficiently.”
Howard Davidson, Environment Agency regional director, South East, said:
“It might be raining at the moment but there are times when water is scarce. Being aware of how much water we use is a key step in making sure that we don’t take any more than is necessary from the environment. We fully support the use of metering as it has been shown to reduce the demand for water.”
Alan Williams, Chairman of the Darent River Preservation society, said:
“We fully support the principle of water metering and other measures to reduce demand. Over the past decade we have worked very hard to restore the River Darent. We have achieved some improvements, and there is still more to be done to ensure that this beautiful river remains safe for generations to come.”
“The water that supplies our homes and businesses, comes from the aquifers that feed the Darent and Cray. Using more water in our homes means less water for the river. So we support measures such as metering that will reduce water consumption, and can also help cut people’s water bills. We would urge everyone: use water carefully – it’s a precious commodity.”