Will water firm force you onto a meter?

hosepipeGareth Fuller/PA Wire

Southern Water has announced that it will be moving thousands of homeowners onto meters in Hampshire, Kent and Sussex, in order to meet water targets. Some people will save money as a result of the changes - whereas others will pay far more for their water.

So why is it making the move, and what does it mean for homeowners?


Southern Water made the announcement as part of a report into how it is going to secure water supplies for the foreseeable future. It said that it was seeking to better manage water in the River Itchen, so that if it fell below a certain level, extraction would stop immediately. In order to do this it will construct a pipeline, but that will reduce the water available to customers.

It said: "Southern Water is putting in place a suite of measures to ensure there is enough water available for customers... This includes the roll out of metering across the area to reduce demand for water, ongoing work to tackle leakage on the network and the proposed Testwood scheme [a treatment facility]." Around 75,000 meters will be placed in homes in Sussex in the next 12 months.


It has been granted permission to force people onto meters, after the South East was classed as facing 'serious water stress', which gives water companies certain emergency powers - such as the right to introduce meters without having to ask permission.

It means that affected households will have no say on whether the meters are introduced in their homes.

The question of whether other water companies follow this example will depend on whether they are granted the powers, and whether they need an extra help to hit their targets. Given the droughts this year, these sorts of drastic steps look increasingly likely.

What it means

So what will it mean for you? The idea is that if we pay for every drop of water we use, we are likely to focus on using less in order to cut our costs. It means some people will be able to cut their bills fairly dramatically, and a single person household could easily see the cost of their water halve.

However, there will be winners and losers. Ofwat says: "A water meter is more likely to save you money if you live in a house with a high rateable value, or if you use only a relatively small amount of water. Generally speaking, large families may be worse off with a meter and single occupiers are most likely to benefit."

However, if you introduce water-saving measures - such as a water butt for the garden, only running the washing machine or dishwasher when it's full, and washing dishes and vegetables in a bowl rather than under running water, you could turn a higher bill into a money-saving opportunity.

There are lots of calculators which will show whether you would gain or lose from a meter, including this one from the Consumer Council for Water.

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Will water firm force you onto a meter?

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.

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