Pressures on water supplies make metering essential
Even notoriously wet and rainy England will face severe water shortages as it feels the bite of climate change and a growing population.
This is the message of the Environment Agency as it backs calls for widespread water metering and water efficiency measures.
The agency has published its response to the independent review of water pricing and metering undertaken by Anna Walker.
Unsurprisingly, the agency backs the report's position that most households and businesses should pay for water according to how much they use.
Households with a water meter use between 10 and 15 per cent less water than those without and businesses that pay for what they use also tend to be more thrifty with their water use.
The UK is one of the few industrialised countries that have low levels of metering; currently only one third of households in England and Wales are metered.
An Environment Agency statement said: "Widespread water metering implemented by water companies, including safeguards to protect vulnerable groups, would provide a fairer charging system and is vital to help reduce water consumption and avert future severe shortages."
The review also recognises the important role that structured education programmes and water saving campaigns can play to encourage people to change their water use behaviours across England and Wales.
Although climate change will lead to more frequent heavy downpours and increase the risk of flooding, the Environment Agency predicts that overall it will reduce the amount of water available in rivers in England and Wales by ten to 15% by 2050, and up to as much as 80% during summer months.
A potential 20 million increase in the population of England and Wales will put even greater pressure on the countries' finite water supplies.
The Environment Agency's Head of Water, Ian Barker, said: "Water is a precious resource which we all need to use more efficiently.
"Parts of England already have less available water per person than Spain or Morocco. Climate change, increases in population, and our growing demand for water will mean that there will be even less water in future.
"We believe that widespread metering and progressive tariffs represents the fairest and most sustainable charging approach for the future. We acknowledge that the transition requires careful management, particularly with regard to affordability, but metering will help customers reduce their consumption.
The Environment Agency supports the recommendations of the Walker Review and we want to see them taken forward as quickly as possible."
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