News

Fairness on tap

4 April 2011

Fairness on Tap is a coalition calling for government should set out a strategy to install water meters in at least the 80% of England where there is greatest pressure on the freshwater environment and people's pockets by 2020. This must be supported by fair tariffs to make water bills affordable for everyone and help to reduce water waste and protect the freshwater environment.

Fairness on Tap is a coalition of organisations calling for a fair deal for water - for customers and the environment. We include: Angling Trust, Association of Rivers Trusts, Buglife, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, Great British Refurb, National Trust, RSPB, Salmon and Trout Association, The Wildlife Trusts, Waterwise, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and WWF-UK. We believe government should set out a strategy to install water meters in at least the 80% of England where there is greatest pressure on the freshwater environment and people's pockets by 2020. This must be supported by fair tariffs to make water bills affordable for everyone and help to reduce water waste and protect the freshwater environment.

The report Making the Case for Metering is available on request and to download from www.fairnessontap.org.uk It includes a number of case study families who are available for interviews to talk about their experiences in having a water meter - some of which have made significant savings on their water bill (over £500 per year). In addition, there are a number of case studies for regional media.

Water metering has benefits for consumers, water companies, and the environment, helping to deliver water savings of 10-15%. However, meters are only part of the solution: they must be supported by a package of tariffs which ensures that those who need help paying for water get help and provide incentives to reduce waste, as well as advice, information and equipment to help households save water. 

In 2009, Defra commissioned an independent review of charging for household water and sewerage services by Anna Walker ('the Walker Review'). It concluded that the current system of water charging in England and Wales is outdated and unsustainable and that charging by volume of water used - metering - is the fairest approach. The Walker Review estimated that the costs of installing a meter for an 'opt-in' customer is about £220 per household. However, with systematic metering average installation costs could be reduced by 20 - 50%, which compares favourably against other methods of meeting water demand. The Review concluded that the benefits would outweigh costs where water is scarce and in areas where there are current high levels of metering (approximately 80% of England and Wales). The Walker Review also estimates that there are around £600 million of transfers (cross-subsidies) between rateable value bill payers each year. Only £180 million of this is going to low-income households (with some of that coming from other low-income households). The remaining £420 million is subsidising those who don't need help paying bills, and some of this is comes from those who themselves need help.

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