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 Coorong Fish Hedge Their Bets for Survival
27.03.2015 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Greener Industry If Environmental Authorities Change Strategy
27.03.2015 | University of Gothenburg

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: Experiment Provides the Best Look Yet at 'Warm Dense Matter' at Cores of Giant Planets

In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...

Im Focus: Energy-autonomous and wireless monitoring protects marine gearboxes

The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.

As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...

Im Focus: 3-D satellite, GPS earthquake maps isolate impacts in real time

Method produced by UI researcher could improve reaction time to deadly, expensive quakes

When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.

Im Focus: Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. 

Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...

Im Focus: Robot inspects concrete garage floors and bridge roadways for damage

Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.

From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference On Regenerative Medicine 2015: Registration And Abstract Submission Now Open

25.03.2015 | Event News

University presidents from all over the world meet in Hamburg

19.03.2015 | Event News

10. CeBiTec Symposium zum Big Data-Problem

17.03.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Two Most Destructive Termite Species Forming Superswarms in South Florida

27.03.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

ORNL-Led Team Demonstrates Desalination with Nanoporous Graphene Membrane

27.03.2015 | Materials Sciences

Coorong Fish Hedge Their Bets for Survival

27.03.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>