ARCHIVE: Water metering and charging
- Your right to a metered charge
- Your right to an unmetered charge
- 2007 consultation - Government response
- Help for people receiving benefits or tax credits
Water is a scarce natural resource that we must all value, and recent droughts and publicity on climate change have concentrated all our minds on the need to reduce our demand for water.
Traditionally, water use was unmetered and households could use as much as they wanted, usually paying according to the rateable value of their home. Water companies are increasingly installing meters — predominantly for householders that choose to have one or in new houses. Metering does encourage households to save water. Research shows that a metered household uses around 10% less water than an unmetered household.
The Government doesn't currently compel companies to install meters, it's down to them whether they use metering or not. Metering is one of a range of measures that companies might take to assure their supply and demand balance, all of which cost money.
Metering saves water and can result in lower bills for many customers, saving money as well as helping the environment. There is also scope for additional savings through use of water efficiency devices or innovative tariffs. There are other benefits, such as making leakage management more effective, and the possibility of deferring investment on other resource schemes.
If you would like a water meter to be installed contact your water company. In the majority of cases it will be at no cost to you. Your rights regarding water charging are explained in more detail below.
You have the right to pay a metered water charge for your home if you wish. You can ask your water company to install a water meter free of charge.
When asked, water companies will have to fit meters within a promised timescale. If they fail, they should offer an alternative charge until metering begins.
Companies do not have to fit a meter if it is too difficult or would cost too much. If this is the case when you ask for a metered charge, the water company will explain why and what alternatives are available.
After you have opted for a metered charge, you will have at least 12 months in which to change your mind. If you do, you must notify the water company and your charge will go back to being unmeasured.
You will have the right to continue paying an unmetered charge provided that you meet the following conditions.
- You are already paying an unmetered charge.
- The charge is for your home.
- Your home is not a minor part of a building with another use (such as a business).
- You carry on living at the same address.
- You are not using water from the mains for any of these purposes:
- watering a garden (unless you simply water by hand, such as by a watering can or a hand-held hose);
- filling a pond or swimming pool bigger than 10,000 litres with an automatic refill;
- filling an extra-large bath (bigger than 230 litres - a normal bath is only 80 litres);
- a power shower; or
- a water softener using reverse osmosis.
- You are not in an area declared as water scarce (only one area, Folkestone and Dover Water services has been so designated),
- You are not in an area designated as an area of serious water stress by the Secretary of State with a company that has a programme of compulsory metering in its final Water Resource Management Plan.
If you do not meet all the points on this list you will not necessarily have to pay a metered charge. It only means that the water company could decide that you should.
If you do have the right to an unmetered charge, it does not prevent water companies fitting meters or require them to take out existing meters. But it means they cannot set your charge according to a meter reading.
We consulted in 2007 on a proposal of the Water Saving Group, set up by Defra in 2005 to bring together Government, regulators, industry and customers. The proposal required companies in areas of serious water stress to bring forward, and consult upon, compulsory metering of households as one of a range of measures examined in their statutory Water Resource Management Plans.
Many households benefit from having a water meter. But some households with meters suffer hardship because they need to use large amounts of water for essential purposes. Households who fall into this group may be eligible to receive help with their bill. We explain below how the system works, and help you to decide if your household may be eligible for assistance with your metered water bills.
What help is on offer?
If your household is eligible, then you will be able to opt to pay a fixed charge - the average household bill of your water company. This is known as the vulnerable groups tariff or ‘WaterSure’. This means you will know how much your annual bill will be, taking away the uncertainty of variable bills which can arise where charges are based on meter readings. Your water company will be able to tell you if your current bill is higher than this average. If your water bill, based on your consumption, is subsequently lower than the average household bill, you will only pay the lower charge
This may benefit you if you are part of a low income household that needs to use a lot of water ( either because you have a large family or a member of your household has a medical condition which requires a significant additional use of water) as you will not have to worry about running up large water bills.
Will I be eligible?
You may be eligible if:
- You receive certain benefits or tax credits, and either:
- You are responsible for three or more children under 19, or
- You or a person living with you has a specified medical condition which causes significant extra water use.
Our flow chart should help you assess whether you are likely to qualify:
- Flow chart (PDF 30 KB)
Changes were made to the benefits and tax credits system in April 2003 and came into effect on 1 April 2003 and these changes were reflected in changes made to the Vulnerable Groups qualifying criteria.
The revised full list of benefits and tax credits which qualify customers for the Vulnerable Groups Scheme are listed below.
- council tax benefit
- housing benefit
- income support
- income-based jobseeker's allowance
- the new working tax credit
- the child tax credit ( except families in receipt of the family element only)
- pension credit
What should I do next?
Working through the flow chart should help you decide whether your household is eligible for help. If you think it is, the person who pays your water bill should contact the water company on their customer services line (the number should be on your water bill), and ask them to send you an application form.
When you get the application form you should complete it as fully as possible. You will need to enclose certain documents to prove that you are eligible for the assistance.
How do I prove that I am eligible?
Your water company will provide you with instructions on how to prove you are eligible when they send you the application form. You will usually need to enclose a photocopy of your order book, or your most recent award notice - not older than a year in the case of benefits and not older than six months for tax credits.
Applicants with three or more children under 19
If you are claiming because you are responsible for three or more children under 19 and in full time education, you will usually need to enclose the latest child benefit award notice.
Applicants with specified medical conditions
If you are claiming because you or someone in your household has a medical condition (as listed on the flow chart) you will need to provide some information about the condition, and its impact on household water use. For example, you might enclose a photocopy of the prescription, prescription renewal form, or hospital appointment card.
In the case of an application for assistance for a medical condition not on the list you will need to back up your application with a medical certificate from your Doctor. This will cost you a standard fee.
The completed application form
When you have completed the application form, and enclosed everything that is needed, you should send it to your water company. They will then write back to you with a decision. If you qualify, your next water bill will be based on the average household bill of your water company.
How long does assistance last?
You will need to re-apply each year to confirm that you are still eligible. Your water company will send you a reminder.
Page published: 14 February 2008