SARAH JONES questions Darren Bentham, director of metering at Southern Water, to find out just how it will affect people across the south.

Some 500,000 Southern Water customers will be getting a new water meter – 140,000 of whom live in our area. Can you specify what proportions will receive higher and lower bills as a result, assuming their water consumption remains the same as it is now?

About 35 per cent of Southern Water households in the south of Hampshire already have a water meter and as the rest of our customers have a meter installed, about half will see a reduction in their bills and half will see an increase.

Which types of households are likely to be paying more and which types of households are likely to pay less as a result of receiving a water meter?

As Southern Water customers move on to metered charges their bills will change from ones based on the rateable value of their property, to bills based on how much water the household uses. Households with more occupants and a lower rateable value are likely to see an increase in their bills. Houses with fewer occupants and higher rateable values are likely to see lower bills when moved to a meter.

Approximately how much more per year or per month will those that are likely to see their bills increase pay? And what about those that are likely to see their bills decrease?

As households move to metered charges, about 30 per cent of Southern Water customers will see their bills go down by more than £5 per month (£60 per year). About six per cent will see their bills reduce by between £3.30 per month and £5 per month and seven per cent will their bills reduce by between £3.30 and £1.60 per month. A further seven per cent will see a reduction of around £1.60 per month. These reductions are broadly mirrored by similar increases in bills for those who will be paying more.

Taking the example of a single mum with four or five children, is it fair that she is likely to end up paying more even though she would maintain that it would be near impossible to reduce her water usage?

Every household has its own unique set of circumstances and any change in the household’s water bill depends on the rateable value of the property, by which the current water bill is calculated and how much water the household uses. Southern Water is giving everybody tips on simple ways to save water, energy and money in the home and garden. During workshops held with customers we discovered that people who think they cannot use less water are surprised about the simple changes they can make, which add up to significant water and savings over the year. People are also surprised that savings on heating water can also have a significant impact on their energy bills, as up to a third of the average household energy bill is spent on heating water.

But how would Southern Water actually help those who will end up paying more for their water?

We are introducing two new tariffs to help customers who see an increase in their water bills as they move to metered charges. The first is a Changeover Tariff which is open for all customers to opt on to and will introduce the increase gradually to give people time to adjust to their metered charges and understand how they can manage their water use and bills.

During the first year, the bill is made up of one-third metered charges and two-thirds unmetered and during the second year it is made up of two-thirds metered charges and one-third unmetered. In the final year, the bill moves to full metered charges. The second is a Support Tariff which will support customers who genuinely cannot afford to pay any increase in their bill. Before moving on to the Support Tariff, customers will have a free water and energy audit in their home, called a HomeSaver check, which includes the installation of free watersaving devices. The customer will also have a free financial assessment with an independent company, which includes advice on benefits. If the customer is recommended for the Support Tariff, then their bill is capped at the equivalent of their rateable value bill. In addition, we already provide support for households struggling to pay their water bills such as WaterSure, which provides financial assistance to some customers on meters who receive means-tested benefits, either with three or more children, or with medical conditions who use large amounts of water for essential purposes. Customers can find out more about Southern Water’s metering programme and tariffs by visiting our metering website at or calling our Metering Call Centre on 0333 2003 011.

So what key advice could you give householders keen to reduce their water use?

There are many simple changes that households can choose to make to reduce their daily water use and bring their bills down. Some of these include: ● Fitting a Save-a-Flush bag in the cisterns of older toilets, saving about seven litres per person each day and about £6.50 per person off the annual water bill; ● Spending one minute less in the shower each day, saving seven litres per person per day and about £6.50 per person off the annual water bill, while also saving energy heating the water; ● Putting one full load in the washing machine, instead of two half-loads, to save 30 litres of water each week and about £4 per year off the annual water bill, plus energy savings; ●Running the kitchen tap for one minute less each day, saving about nine litres of water and £8.50 each year off the annual water bill.

If the average family made a concerted effort to follow all of your advice, how much do you estimate it could save a year?

Water use can vary widely per household and can range from about 65 litres per person per day to 260 litres per SARAH JONES questions Darren Bentham, director of metering at Southern Water, to find out just how it will affect people across the south person per day, so the effect of saving water and energy will depend on how much the household uses in the first place. The average daily use of a customer in a metered household in the south of Hampshire is 123 litres, compared to the average use of a customer not on a water meter, which is 144 litres. Just by introducing only a few simple changes in their water use, an average household in southern Hampshire could reduce its water bill by nearly 20 per cent, and also see savings on their energy bill.

The more water-saving tips households choose to adopt, the further they can reduce their bills. There are lots of tips and advice about ways to save water and energy on our website.

Southampton has a large student population already facing increased fees and expenses. How will the installation of water meters affect multi-occupancy dwellings?

A metered water bill is based on actual consumption, so any difference in bills will depend on the rateable value of the house, which determines the current bill, and the water use in the household. The bill payer in multiple occupancy dwellings will have the same access to the same tariffs, advice and support as all other customers.

What would you say to keen gardeners who may be worried about the cost of watering their plants and maintaining their hobby?

Gardeners are often more aware of the environment and are keen to play a role in water conservation and protecting rivers and ponds. Gardeners are able to grow healthy and vibrant gardens without excessive water use. During the summer months, the amount of water which is used on gardens can rise to nearly three-quarters of the total supplied by Southern Water, putting a strain on resources. There are many simple water-saving tips to be water-wise in the garden, including installing a water butt to collect rainwater for watering, watering early in the morning or late evening to avoid evaporation and targeting the roots and avoiding leaving hoses and sprinklers running.

Can a householder legally refuse to have a meter and if not, why not?

No. DEFRA has classed the Southern Water region as an Area of Serious Water Stress and has approved the company’s Water Resource Management Plan, which includes a programme to install meters for the majority of its customers. The Water Industry Act 1999 includes the power to universally meter households if the water company’s area has been determined to be an Area of Serious Water Stress. An independently conducted survey of Southern Water’s customers found they believed paying for the water they use on metered charges is fairer than the current system based on rateable value. The aim of the programme is to work with customers to help conserve water supplies, protect the environment and ensure there are sufficient water resources to supply everyone in the long-term, while allowing for population growth and the effects of climate change. In developing its metering programme, Southern Water has shown that metering is the most cost-effective solution for customers in terms of securing water resources in the long term.

Will your publicity campaign be advocating sharing baths and flushing toilets less often to save water?

No. On a water meter households pay only for the water they use and so can make choices about the ways in which they feel they can save water. Saving water also means saving energy because it reduces the amount of hot water used in the home. Heating water for day-to-day tasks such as taking a shower, washing clothes and boiling the kettle makes up to 30 per cent of the average home’s energy bill. If you change your old showerhead to a water-efficient model, the average family could save about £37 a year on their water and gas bills combined. If everyone in a four-person family replaces one bath a week with a five-minute shower, that could save between £10 and £28 a year on your water and energy bills.