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Let companies make water meters compulsory, MPs say

Water companies should be allowed to force households to install water meters, an influential group of MPs has said.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which includes MPs from different political parties, has said in a report that it has heard strong evidence that water metering helps to reduce water use and detect when leaks are occurring.

But the report also concedes that introducing compulsory meters could increase customers' bills in some cases.

See our Cut your water bills guide to see if you can save cash.

What does a water meter do?

Without a water meter, your bill is based on your home's 'rateable value' – a figure based on the size of your property. The amount of water used is irrelevant.

With a water meter, the size of your bill depends on your consumption. Water meters usually calculate the sewerage bill too.

As a rule of thumb, if there are more bedrooms in your home than people, or the same number, check out getting a meter.

The Consumer Council for Water also has a free water meter calculator that tells you if you can save with a meter.

It asks basic questions about your water use – for example, how many people live in your home, the number of showers taken a week, your dishwasher use and what you're paying at the moment – and then tells you your estimated costs if you were to have a meter.

For full information, see our Water Bills guide.

What exactly does the report recommend?

In the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee's report, entitled Regulation of the Water Industry, the MPs say that by the end of 2019, the Government should amend regulations to allow all water companies to bring in compulsory metering, using smart meters.

In some "water-stretched" regions, a number of water companies can already make water meters compulsory, including Affinity Water, Anglian Water, Essex and Suffolk Water, South East Water, Southern Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, and Thames Water. But the MPs want to extend this to all companies across England and Wales.

As well as the recommendation regarding water meters, the MPs also pointed out other flaws with the water market – such as the convoluted complaints process.

The report states that water regulator Ofwat should review the complaints process, and that one way to improve the system would be to require water companies to "automatically pay complainants a fixed sum if they don't resolve the complaint within 15 days".

What does the committee say?

Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said: "We need to move beyond a regional approach to water metering, because there is a national need to conserve water.

"We call on Defra [the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs] to allow all water companies the power to implement compulsory metering. That way, companies have the same tools at their disposal to reduce consumption of water in their regions.

"Where this might lead to significant bill increases, metering should be accompanied by strengthened support for vulnerable customers."

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