Water meters will be installed for almost every home in Brighton and Hove in the next year.
Southern Water has announced the biggest ever change to water charging in the city, which could produce more winners than losers.
Some 75,000 devices will be placed inside or outside homes so customers are charged for the water they use, rather than a flat rate.
The water company argues the overhaul is essential to counter water shortages. Because the Government has classed the South East as a region of “serious water stress”, Southern Water has the power to make metered households compulsory.
Meter installation teams have started work at properties in Hove and will work from west to east, with the aim of finishing all work by October 2013.
The company says it will avoid working in central Brighton and Hove during the Christmas and summer months.
Darren Bentham, Southern Water’s director of metering, said: “As well as helping to secure water resources for the future, metering is the fairest way to charge as people pay for what they use. It puts people in control of their bills.”
More than 70,000 meters have already been installed in West Sussex since 2010 as part of the company’s five-year plan, Since the equipment was rolled out, 59% of customers reported a reduction in their water bills, while 41 % saw an increase.
Southern Water spokesman said: “Those who need financial assistance are also offered a visit from a Green Doctor who will fit free water efficient devices such as tap aerators and low consumption shower heads.”
Customers will receive a letter and information pack four weeks in advance of the meter installation, followed by blue signs appearing in streets a week before the work is due and pink signs when the work is complete. One in ten homes, or 7,500 homes, will need to be accessed for the meters to be installed.
The roll-out of meters has attracted attention from consumer bodies, which fear some customers will face financial difficulties.
A spokesman from “Which?” warned that households with large families should expect an increase in bills after having a water meter installed.
He said: “Meters can help cut water use by making consumers more aware of the amount of water they're using.
“But while some can and do save money from meters, others - particularly large families - may see their bills rise if meters become compulsory. We want to see water companies and regulators considering the impact on all customers before making sweeping changes to the charging system.”
For further information on Southern Water’s plans, visit www.yourwatermeter.co.uk or call Southern Water’s Metering Centre on 0333 2003 013.
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