Water Meters - The Beginners Guide

The beginners guide to water meters

A water meter is a device fitted to your incoming water supply pipe which measures the exact amount of water you use in your home, rather than relying on estimates.

The meter records the amount of water passing from the mains supply pipe directly into your home. Similar to a gas or electricity meter, it shows exactly how much you use. Your water company uses the reading from the water meter to calculate how much to charge for the water and sewerage services used.

Why Install a Water Meter?

There are two main reasons why you should consider installing a water meter: environmental and financial.

Environmental – Help the Planet

  • Help protect the environment by conserving water; you will become more aware of your water use when you become metered as the more you use, the more you pay.

Financial – Help your Wallet

  • You control how much water you use and therefore control the cost of your own water bill
  • Save money; you may become more conscious of the water you use, most customers use 10% less water once they have a meter installed
  • You only pay for the water you use, hence it is one of the fairest methods to charge for water
  • You no longer subsidise the cost for those who are less careful with water
  • You help to prevent wastage; with more water saved less sewerage is produced

If you are interested in having a meter installed but are worried you may not be using water efficiently, then follow our water saving tips. You can also check your water company’s website for a free water efficiency pack or purchase some of our water saving devices.

Can I save water by installing a water meter?

According to the Energy Saving Trust report “At Home with Water” currently, only 43% of homes in England and Wales have a water meter fitted, but this number is slowly increasing.

According to Ofwat (the regulator of water and sewerage providers in England and Wales), the average water bill including sewerage, for households on a meter is £325 a year, compared with £379 for those not on a meter.

These savings are mostly due to a change in behaviour and higher consciousness of water efficiency after a meter is fitted, with an average reduction of water consumption between 9%-20%.

If you are already an efficient water saver, opting for a free meter should mean lower bills. Moreover many people find they make a conscious effort to save water once they have a meter fitted. But a water meter can help you save not only water but also save on energy bills, as saving water may also mean heating less of it which would help reduce energy bills and your carbon footprint, in addition to the original savings on your water bill.

Can I save money by fitting a water meter?

Once a water meter is fitted your water charges will be based on the amount of water used, rather than a fixed amount each year based on the rateable value (RV) of your property, which does not reflect the number of people living in the property or the amount of water used.

If you are on a fixed tariff you cannot reduce water bills as you always pay a set amount. As with most other types of savings, whether it will be beneficial for you to install a water meter depends on several factors. You need to take into account how much you currently pay on an unmeasured charge (RV) and how much water you use. Domestic customers are likely to benefit from installing a water meter are those where there are more bedrooms in the household than occupants. In contrast it’s possible that large families may be worse off to single or lower occupancies.

Average domestic use for a single occupancy property is estimated to be around 65 cubic metres per year. Properties with more than one occupier tend to use an additional 50 cubic metres per person per year. Some properties will use significantly more or less than the average and factors which determine this include the number of water consumption appliances in the property, if there is a garden to water, the size of the garden, so in many cases you can save money after installing a water meter, but in others it may result in costing considerably more. Hence if you are already following water saving tips and have some water saving devices installed, you may be using less than the average guidelines and could benefit from the installation of a water meter. Ofwat’s website and many water companies offer specially designed calculators to help you decide whether or not to install a water meter.

Refused a water meter? Ask for an assessed bill.

In certain circumstances, it may not be possible to fit a meter so Water Company’s surveyor will discuss the options with you if this is the case.

If your water usage is limited you can request an "assessed charge bill". This is calculated on the basis of details such as how many people live in your flat/house, but varies from company to company. Some companies don't base their assessed charges on the number of people living in the house, but instead offer a single occupancy rate.

Circumstances in which it might be impossible to install a water meter for free include situations where installation involves:

  • separating the customer’s supply pipe shared with neighbouring property
  • installing more than two meters where there are multiple supplies into a property
  • any alteration to existing plumbing, fixtures and fittings
  • installation of a meter at another location than in the assessor’s preferred location, which is normally in the public highway footpath at the location of the customer’s external stop tap.

In most of the cases the water meter still can be installed for free, but the customer would need to cover any additional costs.