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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 14:09 GMT
Water meter call in drought areas
Tap with running water
South-east England has been affected by drought in recent years
Water meters should be introduced in homes in drought-hit parts of England to help save water, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has said.

Mr Benn called for "near universal metering" by 2030 in certain areas as part of a wide-ranging water strategy.

The government will also conduct a review of water charges across the country in a bid to conserve water.

Ministers want to encourage any new garden paving to be porous to ensure rainfall soaks into the ground.

In another measure, there are proposals to remove phosphates from washing powders in an attempt to reduce pollution.

Unsustainable supplies

Launching the Future Water strategy, Mr Benn said: "Securing and maintaining water supplies is vital to the prosperity of the country and to the health of people and the environment.

Our current system of charging, based largely on the value of people's homes 35 years ago, is archaic and rife with anomalies
Hilary Benn
Environment Secretary

"In some areas, current supplies are already unsustainable and this situation was exemplified by the drought in south-east England between 2004 and 2006."

Mr Benn said climate change, economic growth and rising population would put more pressure on water supplies in the future.

"No one approach will work for all areas, but we must find ways of improving efficiency, and of reducing demand and wastage. That's what this strategy will help deliver," he said.

'Rife with anomalies'

The strategy aims to reduce water usage to from 150 to 120 litres per person per day by 2030.

It also proposes changing existing rules so that planning permission is not required for paving front gardens provided porous materials are used.

Mr Benn said: "The independent review will assess the effectiveness and fairness of different methods of charging, including metering and tariffs, and make recommendations.

"Our current system of charging, based largely on the value of people's homes 35 years ago, is archaic and rife with anomalies.

"We need a fairer system that offers incentives to conserve water."

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