Water meters could be used to charge households extra for using hosepipes in an attempt to prevent shortages, water company plans show.
A smart meter rollout by water companies could lead to special tariffs for people using sprinklers, hosepipes or swimming pools, drought plans suggest, as dwindling water supplies leave millions facing hosepipe bans this summer.
Anglian Water’s plan suggests the “introduction of separate additional fees for sprinkler users, hosepipe users, outside tap users, swimming pools”, adding: “These might be feasible as smart meters are introduced.”
Most people in the UK pay a fixed rate for water, but companies in water-stressed areas are rolling out compulsory metering. Anglian Water has one of the highest metering rates in the country, with over 90 per cent of customers already having a water meter.
The company is planning to upgrade these to smart meters over the next 10 years, allowing centralised monitoring of household water usage without having to visit a home to check a meter. The rollout will “help inform our customers regarding water usage and assist in our ability to influence this behaviour”, its drought plan says.
People with water meters are not exempt from hosepipe bans, implemented so far this year by Southern Water, South East Water and Welsh Water after a drier than average winter and spring and a record-breaking heatwave last month.
Anglian Water supplies one of the most water-stressed areas of the country but said it was not currently planning to bring in a hosepipe ban this summer, although another dry winter would mean it would be “in a much more serious position come spring”.
Several water companies have policies requiring high water users to have a metered supply, for example if they have sprinklers or automatically refill a pool or pond.
In February, The Telegraph revealed that around six million new households could be forced to install water meters after new areas were declared water stressed.
Water companies say meters cut household water use by around 10 per cent, but consumer groups say the firms should cut leakage from their networks before putting the burden on consumers. Around a fifth of supplies are lost to leaks every day.
A spokesman for Anglian Water said: “Different tariffs for hosepipe or sprinkler users was a concept featured in our 25-year water resource management plan from 2019. It’s one of a number of things outlined in the reports, including investing in smart meters and building new reservoirs to store more water.
“We believe different tariffs for high usage could play a role to incentivise customers to use less water but would only work effectively in tandem with smart meters, so customers can clearly see how much water they are using for day-to-day activities.
“While we have the biggest and most ambitious smart meter rollout plan of any water company in the UK, we don’t believe different tariffs alone would work in isolation. There are no plans to bring in such charges this year. It is an option we could consider in future years, however.
“Anglian Water has no hosepipe bans currently in place across our region, and we’re working hard to keep it that way.”