Southern Water’s Metering Programme – July 2013
Meeting rising demand
The South East has been classed by the government as an area of water stress. Population growth will continue to increase the demand for water, whilst at the same time climate change is likely to mean drier summers and more frequent droughts. That means we need to stretch our water resources further.
Our programme to meter households we supply, alongside tackling leakage and developing new water resources, is an important part of our long-term strategy to manage water resources for Hampshire, Sussex and Kent for the future.
The installation of 500,000 meters by the end of 2015 will reduce the amount of water people use to the extent that it would take until 2035 to return to today’s levels of water use, even allowing for population growth in the region and the additional demand on water resources.
On average, households with a water meter tend to use significantly less water and most of our customers believe that metering is the fairest way to charge for water as people pay for what they use.
By 2015, more than nine out of ten households in our region will be metered, compared to four in ten when our metering programme began in 2010.
Moving customers to metered charges
As the programme continues, customers will be converted to metered charges three months after their meter has been installed, to give them time to adjust to having a meter. At this time customers will be sent a letter advising them of the switch, as well as what their final Rateable Value bill is.
After a further three months, six months after the meter has been installed, the customer will receive a letter explaining how much water the household is using and how much their first metered bill is likely to be.
At any point customers can choose to opt onto the Changeover Tariff (see below) if they think their metered bill is going to be higher than their previous rateable value bill. The Changeover Tariff introduces a bill increase gradually over three years. For customers who may not be able to afford their metered bill there is the Support Tariff (see below).
All customers will also receive information on ways to save water and energy in their homes and take control of their bills.
Finally, nine months after the meter has been installed, the customer will receive their first metered bill and have the option again to opt onto the Changeover Tariff or apply for the Support Tariff.
Support for our customers
Between April 2012 and March 2013, metered customers will pay £1.134p per 1,000 litres (cubic metre) of water and £2.08p per 1,000 litres of wastewater.
Our average metered water and sewerage bill is £391 for 2012/2013.
When asked, more than three quarters of our customers told us they believe that metering is a
fairer way of paying for water as people pay for what they use. Of the 130,000 households
which have received a bill since having a meter installed, 60% have seen their bills go down.
This is as a result of the fact that currently, water bills are based on the rateable value of the
house, whereas on a meter they are based on the amount of water people use.
Working closely with the water industry regulator, Ofwat, we have developed a range of tariffs to
give people time to adapt to metered charges and make sure that water bills remain affordable
We have already identified around 100,000 customers across our service area to whom we are
offering additional assistance with their water meter and bills, including the offer of free water
and energy use checks (Home Saver Checks) and more information on the tariffs and support
available. We look to contact these customers directly when installing their water meters.
All customers can carry out a free online Home Saver Check, as well as find advice and
practical information on water saving at Southern Water’s metering website:
New tariffs specifically for customers receiving a new meter
We have developed a Changeover Tariff to help people who see an increase in their bills once
they switch to metered charges and would like some time to change their water use.
On this tariff, any increase will be phased in gradually over three years to give people time to
adjust to their metered charges and understand how to manage their water use and bills.
During the first year, customers on the Changeover Tariff will pay one-third metered charges
and two-thirds unmetered charges. In the second year they will pay two-thirds metered charges
and one-third unmetered and in the final year they will move to full metered charges.
The Changeover Tariff is optional because some customers may only see a very small initial
increase and many customers could reduce their bills to the rateable value equivalent very
quickly by making a few changes to their water use. When asked, the majority of our customers
said they wanted the Changeover Tariff to be optional.
We have also introduced a Support Tariff to help customers whose bills go up as a result of
moving to metered charges and who have genuine affordability issues. To move on to the
Support Tariff, customers must agree to a free Home Saver Check to help reduce their water
and energy use in the home. This includes the installation of free water saving devices.
Customers are then offered a benefits referral service by an independent company which also
includes a review of income and expenditure. This results in an assessment of affordability of
metered bills which is based on the Common Financial Statement. This is a well recognised
method of assessing affordability which is used by many organisations, including the Citizens’
Advice Bureau. If recommended for the Support Tariff, the customer’s bill will be capped at the
equivalent rate of their rateable value bill.
There are a number of options to help customers who cannot afford to pay their bills, or have to use a lot of water for medical reasons, or have a large family and are on benefits.
These have been in place for some time and so pre-date the metering programme, and are available for all our customers to apply for, regardless of whether they have received their new meter yet or not.
WaterSure provides financial assistance to customers on meters who use large amounts of water for essential purposes. Customers are eligible if someone in the household is receiving benefits or tax credits (restrictions apply) AND:
someone is responsible for three or more children under 19 in full time education living in the property
someone has a specified medical condition which requires the use of more water than normal.
WaterSure caps charges at the level of the average Southern Water household bill. We have existing metered customers already on the WaterSure tariff. Customers who are having a new meter installed as part of our metering programme can also go on to the WaterSure tariff once they are metered if they meet the eligibility criteria.
However, if they also qualify for our Support Tariff then we will place them on the tariff that gives them the most benefit.
The Southern Water Charitable Trust Fund is an independent grant making trust which helps people unable to pay their water bills.
The Water Direct Scheme allows people who receive Job Seekers Allowance, Pension Credit or Income Related Employment and Support Allowance to have their bills paid to Southern Water out of their allowance to help budgeting.
How customers can find out more
Customers can visit our dedicated exhibition unit, which is stationed in their area, on the day of their meter installation to talk face to face to an advisor. Alternatively they can speak to an advisor as they are delivering information packs before the meter is installed.
Customers can also call our Metering Customer Contact Centre on 0333 2003 013 to find out more.
Detailed information about our metering programme is available on our dedicated website www.southernwater.co.uk/metering. Customers can input their postcode to find out when their meter is due to be installed.