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NEWS: Water metering may become mandatory in the United Kingdom

Caroline Spelman

Caroline Spelman

The Independent UK reports that, “Every home in the country could be forced to have a water meter under government plans to overhaul charges as water companies press to cut off supplies to families who do not pay their bills. Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is understood to have accepted in principle that charges for water should in future be based on metering… One option being considered is setting an industry-wide target to dramatically increase the proportion of homes with a meter from the current 40 per cent.”

ABILITY TO CUT OFF WATER SUPPLY?: “The RSPB charity has recommended – to the cross-party environment, food and rural affairs (Efra) select committee – full compulsory metering in England and Wales by 2020, with tariffs protecting the poorest households. However, some (unnamed in the article) water firms have demanded the power to limit or cease supply to ‘those who are able but who deliberately choose not to pay’. It is thought that bad debt racked up by non-payers costs each paying customer about £12 a year. Last year, (Conservative MP) Richard Benyon, a junior environment minister, conceded that he was undecided about giving companies the ‘ability to cut off supply’.”

HIGHER WATER BILLS: “The Efra select committee, chaired by the Tory MP Anne McIntosh, admitted that a more widespread introduction of metering will mean there are ‘winners and losers… and some, including groups of vulnerable customers, could see significant rises in bills’.”

CONSULTATION: “Ms Spelman is due to launch a consultation on the proposals shortly, but Defra insiders claim Downing St unease over the prospect of more unhelpful headlines has led to the announcement being rescheduled. …The Consumer Council for Water has warned MPs that while 57 per cent of people think metering is the fairest way to charge, only 40 per cent support making it mandatory. Ministers are warned to avoid a ‘consumer backlash'”

The Independent UK article is at

CAMERON’S ELECTION PLEDGE: It might also be noted that the British Conservative party election platform under now prime minister David Cameron stated that, “Our water supply faces pressures from reduced river flows, pollution and growing demand. We will reform the water industry and bring in new measures to encourage businesses and households to value this precious resource more highly, and protect poorer households from excessive raises in water bills.” That’s at

WATER POVERTY IN THE UK: Last April, the Times UK reported that, “Ministers are considering setting up a £500m fund to support the growing number of households that are suffering from ‘water poverty’. The condition — defined as when water bills make up more than 3% of household spending — has been largely ignored until recently. The number of people unable or unwilling to pay has soared to record levels during the recession… Last year the value of bills more than a year in arrears jumped 16% to £804m. The value of bills more than three months late rose to £1.4 billion. Thames Water, Britain’s biggest water company, has seen the number of late payers leap from 900,000 last year to 1.6m this year.” The article also notes, “The problem has been building up for 20 years. Since the industry was privatised in 1989, bills have increased by 42% after inflation.” More this situation at

CANADIAN PENSION PLANS PROFIT FROM BRITISH DRINKING WATER: The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan owns 27 percent of Northumbrian Water, which sells water services to 3.3 million people in the United Kingdom. In its last six-month reporting period, Northumbrian posted a $148-million profit. The Canada Pension Plan owns one-third of Anglian Water Services, which sells water services to approximately six million people in the UK. In 2009, Anglian Water posted £317.3 million in profit for the financial year.