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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 16:30 GMT
Water metering plans put forward
Water meter
More than a quarter of households in England currently have meters
Water metering in areas affected by serious water shortages is being proposed by the government and the Environment Agency.

A preliminary map of "water stressed" parts of England has been produced, with the whole of the South East being classified as "serious".

The government is now asking if water firms should have compulsory metering as an option in their management plans.

People can have their say over the consultation until 24 April.

The Environment Agency's map was drawn up according to the availability of water, current and forecast demand, and issues of population growth.

It identified 11 water company supply areas where the situation was deemed to be serious.

Folkestone and Dover Water
Southern Water
Mid Kent Water
South East Water
Thames Water
Essex and Suffolk Water
Three Valleys Water
Sutton and East Surrey Water
Portsmouth Water
Bournemouth and West Hampshire Water
Cambridge Water

They cover London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and parts of Dorset, Essex and Suffolk.

Parts of the South West and much of central England are classified as being under "moderate" water stress.

The Environment Agency consultation asks whether areas should be ranked in such a way.

Chief executive Barbara Young said: "There is a need for meters to be installed quickly in areas where water resources are stressed.

"In the South East we would like much of this to be achieved by 2015 - as long as social safeguards are in place to protect low income and vulnerable households."

Hosepipe bans lifted

The government is running a simultaneous consultation on proposals for compulsory water metering.

Environment minister Ian Pearson said: "Metering saves water, on average 10% per household, and in areas of serious water stress metering may be a valuable additional tool in... reducing unnecessary water use and waste."

But such measures would run in tandem with water companies' obligations to meet leakage targets and develop new and sustainable water resources.

Any inclusion of metering in their management plans would not come into effect until 2009.

Folkestone and Dover Water, in Kent, became the first company to get approval for compulsory water metering last year.

The two-year drought in south-east England has seen widespread water restrictions in place.

But Thames Water, Southern Water, Three Valleys Water and Sutton and East Surrey Water recently lifted their hosepipe bans, while South East Water and Mid Kent Water are due to review theirs.

Map graphic

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