Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Time for universal water metering?

26.05.2006


With recent announcements of potential impending water shortages, everyone is being urged to do their bit to avert further draconian measures. Yet, according to OFWAT, the government’s water industry regulator, less than 30 percent of households in the UK have metered water supply. The other seventy percent can use as much water as they want, with few limits in a normal year and not that many at the moment given the current drought. So is it time for universal water metering? Dr Jonathan Chenoweth of the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey argues the case.



Imagine the situation: Rises in the price of petrol have an unequal impact on society. Price rises force car-dependent people on low incomes to spend a disproportionate percentage of their income on what for many is a basic need. Meanwhile, the wealthy notice little effect on their household budgets. Clearly, the government should deal with this inequity. One solution would be to make people pay a set fee for petrol based not on consumption, but on their ability to pay. All car users could pay a set percentage of their income towards petrol supply and petrol could then be made available to all car users as needed. Travel would become more affordable for the poor and a major social inequity solved. Would this be a much fairer and more efficient way to manage petrol consumption than our present system?

Introducing un-metered petrol supply across Britain and expecting people not to waste petrol would, of course, be absurd. Fortunately, despite the unequal effects of recent petrol price rises, the idea is not under consideration. No one would ever promote the unrestrained use of a limited, scarce resource, whose use has major environmental impacts. And yet, in the case of water, this is exactly what is happening in 70% of UK households.


Replacing the washer of a leaking tap is an easy DIY job costing next to nothing, but why bother? There is little point buying any water efficient appliance either. Under the current system it would be far better financially to put the money saved by buying a cheaper but water-inefficient washing machine towards a more fuel-efficient car. The current system suggests to consumers of water that it is not a scarce resource and there is little point in trying to conserve it.

In most countries with scarce water there is universal water metering. However, moves towards universal metering raise serious issues of equality and the potential impact on those with the least ability to pay. No-one in a wealthy country like Britain should ever be denied access to water because of poverty, and no-one should be forced into water poverty – i.e. being forced to spend a disproportionate percentage of their income meeting their basic water needs. A study by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs done in 2004 found that the poorest households, such as single pensioners living on the minimum pension credit allowance, spend approximately five percent of their income paying an average water bill, whereas the average household spends only one percent. Clearly, the current system has its own inequalities.

A move towards universal water metering need not come at the expense of equality, but could be done in such a way that ensures those with the least ability to pay are not denied access to water for basic human needs. One way of doing this is to give all households a free (or nearly free) basic minimum water allocation and couple this with price-escalating charging for all consumption above this level. Charging could thus be set so that average water consumers meet the real costs of supply, while households with excessive water consumption would, in effect, subsidise very frugal households using only their basic minimum allocation. Excessive water users would also have a real incentive to use less as the more water used, the more would be paid for each litre of water received.

If we are serious about the availability and supply of water in Britain, perhaps it is time we gave people a real incentive to save water. The message of the need to save water is not very convincing when water consumption is not even measured. Maybe it is time to follow the lead of other countries and send an unambiguous message to all water consumers that water is a scarce resource, so much so in fact that you should actually pay attention to, and pay financially for the amount you actually use.

Stuart Miller | alfa
Further information:
http://www.surrey.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Saving coral reefs depends more on protecting fish than safeguarding locations
03.09.2015 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Seabird SOS
01.09.2015 | University of California - Santa Barbara

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Hubble survey unlocks clues to star birth in neighboring galaxy

In a survey of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope images of 2,753 young, blue star clusters in the neighboring Andromeda galaxy (M31), astronomers have found that M31 and our own galaxy have a similar percentage of newborn stars based on mass.

By nailing down what percentage of stars have a particular mass within a cluster, or the Initial Mass Function (IMF), scientists can better interpret the light...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact Inverter for Uninterruptible Power Supplies

Silicon Carbide Components Enable Efficiency of 98.7 percent

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE have developed a highly compact and efficient inverter for use in uninterruptible power...

Im Focus: How wind sculpted Earth's largest dust deposit

China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from University of Arizona geoscientists. The study is the first to explain how the steep-fronted plateau formed.

China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from...

Im Focus: An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets

The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.

Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...

Im Focus: Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests

Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.

"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Together - Work - Experience

03.09.2015 | Event News

Networking conference in Heidelberg for outstanding mathematicians and computer scientists

20.08.2015 | Event News

Scientists meet in Münster for the world’s largest Chitin und Chitosan Conference

20.08.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ion implanted, co-annealed, screen-printed 21% efficient n-PERT solar cells with a bifaciality >97%

04.09.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Casting of SiSiC: new perspectives for chemical and plant engineering

04.09.2015 | Machine Engineering

Extremely thin ceramic components made possible by extrusion

04.09.2015 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>