All homes in Croydon and Bromley will have meters fitted when their occupants change, enabling Thames Water to work on practical problems associated with installation and preparing the ground for a capital-wide scheme, which is still subject to approval from regulator Ofwat.

The trials will also give Thames a more precise idea of what to expect from mass meter installation across the capital, part of the company’s wider reaction to the combined challenge of rising demand and dwindling supplies.

Industry experience so far indicates that customers will use at least 10% less water when forced to pay for the amount they consume. Metering is one of a series of measures in the pipeline, including a new reservoir (see related story), a controversial desalination plant, and the replacement of Thames Water’s infamous leaky pipes.

Vanessa Clark, Head of Metering at Thames Water, said: “Water is becoming an increasingly precious resource. Population growth and climate change will both increase demand in years to come, and we have to keep pace with these changes to ensure that adequate supplies are available.

“Past experience suggests the installation of meters reduces demand for water, but we want to better understand this.”

The South London boroughs of Croydon and Bromley were chosen because of the particularly severe pressure on water resources south of the river Thames, the company said. It has informed the area’s estate agents and solicitors that meters will be provided for free when new occupants move into a property.

Feedback from water customers on metering has so far been positive with many voluntary requests for meter installation, Thames Water said. The company is already running two trials in North East London and in Swindon, Wiltshire.

“We’ve seen a huge increase this year in the number of our customers choosing to have a meter installed, as they become more aware of the financial and environmental benefits of conserving water,” said Vanessa Clark.

Earlier this week Thames said that the drought that hit South East England this year is far from over in its supply area, despite recent rain.

The company called September’s rains “extremely welcome,” but said that they were not enough to replenish groundwater levels depleted by 23 months of extremely low rainfall. A hosepipe ban remains in force and will restrictions are not likely to be lifted until the winter months at the earliest, the company said:

“We need to see average or above average rainfall throughout the colder autumn and winter months, to guarantee that we can refill our reservoirs and allow groundwater levels to rise. Until then, we have to conserve water wherever we can.”

Another South Eastern water company, Folkestone and Dover, lifted its hosepipe ban saying that all its sources have recovered (see related story). But hosepipe bans remain in place in six South East supply areas including that of Thames Water.

Goska Romanowicz

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