Water stress in England mapped
The Environment Agency has identified the parts of England it wants to target with water saving measures like compulsory metering in a consultation launched on Wednesday.
The future effects of climate change and population growth were taken into account when classifying water stress in water company areas as serious, moderate or low.
Barbara Young said: "If we are to meet the long-term needs of society and the economy without overexploiting our environment, we need to understand how to target our water saving efforts and make better use of the water we have now."
She also expressed her support for water metering, which she said had "unchallengeable" benefits as a water-saving tool.
"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," she said.
"Serious water stress" areas, where the EA wants to concentrate its water saving efforts, include Essex & Suffolk, Folkestone & Dover, Southern, Thames, Three Valleys, Mid Kent, Portsmouth, Sutton & East Surrey, Bournemouth & West Hampshire, Cambridge and South East water company supply areas.
Methods used to classify water stress are put up for public scrutiny in a consultation document, Identifying areas of water stress.