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Worries over water meters
Controversial plans to install water meters at nearly every home in the city are under way.
Southern Water announced in November last year it intended to install up to 75,000 devices at properties across Brighton and Hove in an attempt to save water and money.
The majority of installations in Worthing were completed last year, and the company has already started installations in Hove, working from west to east.
To date, they’ve installed meters at nearly 10,000 properties in Aldrington, Hove Park, West Blatchington and West Dene.
The work is part of their plan to install nearly 500,000 water meters across Kent, Sussex and Hampshire by 2015.
So far, 60 per cent of households that have been provided with a water meter have seen their water bills go down.
The company hasalready installed 79,000 meters across the south east and say more than 47,000 customers are saving an average of £11 a month.
New meters will ensure customers who were previously paying a flat rate for their water, based on the rateable value of their property, will now be charged for the water they use.
But around 32,000 customers, mostly large families who are big water users and who live in properties with low rateable values, have found an increase in their bills.
In response, the company has published tips, hints and resources to help ease the burden, including new tariffs and a visit from a ‘Green Doctor’ to fit free water-efficient devices.
Paying for use
Darren Bentham, director of metering at Southern Water, explained: “We believe that paying for what you use is the fairest way to charge.
“It’s the system which has long been adopted by all of the other utilities, but the water industry has been an anomaly in that you could keep your taps turned on all night and still pay the same.
“It’s of paramount importance that we all make the best use of water resources across the south east, as the region is officially defined by Government as water stressed, and meters encourage us all to save millions of litres of water every day.”
Southern Water says meters are vital to help preserve water resources and that installation ‘generally results in customers substantially cutting their water use'.
Fall in consumption
On the Isle of Wight, where every property is metered, water consumption has dropped from 165 litres per person a day to 135 litres, a saving of 18 per cent.
Consumer group Which? agreed water meters encouraged customers to reduce their consumption, but remained cautious over city-wide changes.
A spokesman 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.
“We want to see water companies considering the impact on all customers before making sweeping changes to the charging system.”
Southern Water tips for reducing useage
In the kitchen
“A larger, water efficient, modern family washing machine probably uses about 60 litres per wash.
An inefficient machine of the same size could use up to 100 litres or even more for older machines per wash.
If a family of four has enough dirty clothes for a load a day, the efficient washing machine uses nearly 22,000 litres a year and costs about £67 just for the water.
An inefficient machine will use about 10,000 litres more per year and costs an extra £30 on top. That doesn't include the cost of heating all the extra hot water.”
In the bathroom
“Older, single flush toilets can use between nine to 13 litres per flush. That’s around a bucket of water each flush.
“Modern, dual flush toilets use much less - around five litres each flush.
“Changing the toilet to dual flush would halve the amount of water, saving around £33 per person per year and more than £130 for a family of four.”
In the garden and outside
“Here are some simple tips to think about when watering:
- Water at the roots rather than the leaves to avoid evaporation
- Get some dirt under your fingernails and poke your finger into the garden soil. Remember it's the roots of plants that drink, so just because the soil crust is dry, it doesn’t mean it isn’t moist underneath
- Select plants that don’t need as much water. Try local perennials – once they are established, they shouldn’t need anything more than what nature provides in rainfall.
- If you have potted plants, add some water crystals, which soak up the water and then release it slowly over time as the plants need it.
What you're saying
Helen Wade had a water meter installed at her home in Littlehampton last year. She was previously paying a flat rate based on the rateable value of her property but said she is now more water-conscious since having the meter installed.
She said: “It’s made me think about the amount of water I use. Before I could just turn on the tap and know it would cost me the same amount whatever I used, but now I make much more of an effort to try and save water.
“I’ll turn the tap off when brushing my teeth and only fill the kettle up according to how much I need. When the first bill came in following the installation it was slightly more than normal but then again everything is going up these days, so we learn to deal with it.”
Karl Edwards, from Worthing, said: “There’s only two of us at my house so our bills went down after having a meter installed. I’ve definitely noticed the reduction in price.”
Katie Jewell, from Portslade, had her meter installed month ago. She said: “It was installed within 15 minutes and it was left tidy. I’m worried about the bigger bills because my sister likes a bath.”
Paul Buddery said: “The installation was done quickly but unless you live alone your bills are going up, unless you use water like it’s rationed.”
Tom Jolley, from Seaford, said: “I had one a year ago. Installation was quick and easy and my bills have gone down slightly. Every little helps, so I’m pleased.”
Twitter user tyke75 commented: “Ours starts in April. Bigger bills inevitable - another con - not worried about saving water, it hasn't stopped raining!”
Another twitter user, David Lyons, said: “Installed one in my flat. Bill is £7.70 a month down from £39.00. No-brainer!”
Customers will receive a letter and information pack four weeks in advance of their meter installation, followed by blue signs appearing in the street 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 installation process
Argus reporter Kimberly Middleton, who lives in Preston Road, received her welcome pack last week.
She said: “We got a pack through at the end of last week from the water company saying within the next couple of weeks we will have a meter.
“At first it filled me with horror because as a child my parents always avoided having one fitted out of fear they wouldn’t be able to afford the bills.
“But hopefully just being two of us it will work out cheaper.
“I’ve already started timing the amount of time I spend in the shower, ensuring the tap isn’t running when I brush my teeth and waiting for the crockery to pile up before I do the washing up.”
The story so far
The first of 74,000 water meter installations in Brighton & Hove commenced in late November in the west of the city and they are moving gradually eastwards.
Nearly 10,000 meters have been installed in areas including Aldrington, Hove Park, West Blatchington and West Dene.
Southern Water is currently working in Patcham before moving next to Withdean, Preston Park, Holling-dean, Hollingbury, Falmer and Stanmer.
The installation programme is agreed with the council to avoid, as far as possible, town centres during peak shopping periods.
Southern Water says in most cases, inconvenience for customers is minimised as meters can be fitted in the pavements outside their homes.
A separate plan is being developed for the city centre as this contains a high proportion of flats where appointments with customers will need to be made.
A meter can take just a few minutes to install if it is simply screwed on to an outside stop valve, but it can take up to two hours if a dig and reinstatement is involved.
You can conduct a water audit of your home by visiting www.yourwatermeter.co.uk where there is also information on how to obtain free water-saving products and a post code checker allowing you to find out when your meter will be installed.
Visit www.southernwater.co.uk or call 0800 027 0363 Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and 9am to 1pm Saturday.
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