Lord Krebs said the need to adapt to climate change means metering must become more widespread.
Ministers should introduce water meters with a sliding price scale, charging people more for water beyond a certain amount, he said.
At the moment the average person uses 150 litres of water a day. The Government’s current water strategy says that must fall to 130 litres.
Forget the climate change bit….and forget that idiocy of targets being set.
Look instead at the basic proposal: above certain limits the more water you use the more you pay per unit.
Water, as simply water, is not something in short supply in the UK. Purified water, available all year round, is indeed an economic good. It costs something to purify, store and supply it and thus should and must be charged for.
The question is then, how should it be charged for?
A flat fee only (as with water rates) means that usage is not taken account of. But purely by unit also has problems: there are huge fixed costs in the supply system for a start, so a secure income is probably desirable. You should, perhaps, be paying for the ability to get water, even if you don\’t use any: all those second homes should be paying something for being connected even when not occupied.
I\’m very taken with the way that it works in this part of Portugal. This is a place with serious supply issues: there are dams and lakes all over the place and if you\’re looking to buy a country cottage not on the mains then the first question you ask is where is the dam/lake on the land? We are, this morning, having our first drizzle since May and we don\’t expect real rains for another 6 weeks or so.
The system is that you pay (or at least, our little cottage, quintina, on the mains) 20 euro a month for the basic supply (plus 2 for mains sewers). This is enough to run a household, washing machine, showers, baths etc.
As and when we water the garden (10 minutes morning and night through the summer, enough to stop it drying out but not to the point of a verdantly green lawn all year) this will add perhaps 20 euro to that monthly bill. Seems a fair enough price to pay for having that lawn type garden (not a normal thing to have around here).
We filled up an above ground pool with, I think I\’m right, 18,000 litres and that showed up as an extra 30 euro on the bill (some of the charge for that was included in our monthly base rate).
So the poor can definitely afford the water needed to run a household and if you decide you\’re going to use this scarce resource for luxuries (which a lawn and a pool are) then you pay more.
Where it really becomes painful is if you decide you want to liberally water an extensive garden or, lordy forbid, you have a burst pipe. We had the connection to a loo break in an outbuilding and no one noticed it for several days: so, a tap running for anywhere up to a week. 300 euro bill please. A friend down the road had the pipe from the meter to the house break, didn\’t notice for a few days. 600 euros please.
You only need that to happen to you once and you keep an ear open for the frantic ticking of the meter as it runs at full pelt: and if you can\’t work out why it is (a bath is running say, or you\’re topping off the evaporation losses from the pool) then you go and look and find out why.
Which is, of course, the aim of exactly such a system.
I suggest that this is a great charging system for water: and it\’s great purely on economic grounds, there\’s no need to drag climate change or anything else in to justify it.