Some water customers have raised concerns over the use of Smart Water Meters and electromagnetic sensitivity.
There is currently no government directive for water companies to roll out smart water meters, as has happened in the energy sector. Water meters are installed automatically at new properties and may be required in other situations where there is potentially high water use at a property.
Once a property is metered it will remain that way, unless it was installed at the request of the customer under the Meter Option Scheme which gives them 12 months to change their mind.
If a water company operates in a seriously water-stressed area it must consider compulsory metering as one of the options for balancing the projected water supply demands of its customers against what water resources it has available to it. It does this when it submits its statutory 25 year water resources management plan to the Secretary of State/Defra for approval every five years. Where large scale compulsory water metering programmes have been approved, it is because this represents the most cost effective option for balancing supply and demand in that area. Once water metering has been approved by the Secretary of State under this legislation there is no provision for customers to ‘opt out’.
At present around 53%* of household water customers in England and Wales have a meter, and in parts of the South and East of England the proportion is much higher as several companies have recently embarked on company-wide metering programmes. Existing meters are mostly mechanical but the companies undertaking these larger programmes are fitting smarter meters with automated reading using drive by readers or via fixed area networks. Meters are usually located in the pavement at the boundary of the customer’s property.
It is for the water company to decide which type of water meter it proposes to use. These must however comply with the appropriate UK and EU standards. The water companies that have opted for smart meters are still intending to install them at the property boundary, wherever possible, as this is the point where their responsibility for the pipework ends and it enables any leakage on the external supply pipe to be detected.
If a customer has any questions or concerns about metering or the use of smart water meters they should raise these with their local water company.
*Delving into water, CCWater, November 2016
Defra state that it is a matter for the water company to decide how to deal with objections to the installation of water meters on medical grounds. Each water company will therefore have its own policy in this area.
The Consumer Council for Water’s position
The Consumer Council for Water expects water companies to take any customer concerns seriously and to deal with them sensitively. The company’s policy must be clearly explained and appropriate information given. There are a number of independent sources that provide information on smart meters including Public Health England.
CCWater is not in a position to take a view on any medical concerns or issues.