The irrational fear of water meters

As the Water Resource Manager here at Bristol Water I feel that I should be on a water meter, as I write plans and develop policies that encourage metering as a means to manage our water demand. I am on a water meter.
As a householder, who moved into a property which already had a meter, I had no choice but to be on a meter.

As a mother of 2 small children, with a husband who likes to garden and mountain bike, you might think that I’d have a fear of the water meter. However, the evidence suggests otherwise. We don’t hold back on water use. The washing machine seems to be permanently on, we shower and the kids bath, the dishwasher is on daily, we have vegetables in the garden and frequent hand washing. We use what we need, but we’re not excessive. Also our bills are not the costly monthly expense that some might have you believe them to be (currently £36.50 per month).

The amount of water we use per person in the household fluctuates around the 100 to 110 litres per day. This is below the current average. In 2019/20 we reported that on average a Bristol Water metered customer uses 132 litres per person per day, with unmetered customers using 162 litres per person per day.

A fear of water meters

There seems to be a bit of a fear about water metering among customers. To me this seems quite irrational. Why should we not pay only for what we use? We have meters for our energy use, which generally seen as being perfectly acceptable. Why is water so different? If you only use what you need to use, then the bills won’t be excessive.

I’m always asking myself ‘what do people do with all that extra water they use?’… and I think it’s all about habit and behaviours. We turn off the tap when cleaning our teeth, run a bowl of water for the washing up – as opposed to running the tap, our showers are relatively short, water from the kids paddling pool is re-used on the veg patch for the evening water once the daytime splashing is done. These little habits seem to make all the difference to our overall water consumption as a family.

Helping the environment

As well as keeping the bill down, careful water use will also be beneficial to the environment. If we use less water then there is less taken from the environment (rivers, reservoirs/lakes, groundwater) to meet that demand. There is less water needing to be treated to clean it, using electricity and chemicals, and there is less water being pumped around the network which also uses electricity. Reducing our water use will therefore help to prevent further climate change and environmental damage.

The Environment Agency has set out a national framework for water resources. It addresses how we might meet our future water needs in England. This includes a proposal that water companies should help their customers to reduce water use to around 110 litres per person per day. This will not happen immediately, but it can be done. We all have a part to play in changing the little things to make a collective big difference. My children know to turn off the taps when they are not being used. My 2 year old tells Daddy to not use too much water as it will ‘empty Mummy’s reservoirs’!

By building a culture of awareness and understanding about the impact of our everyday habits and where our water comes from, behaviour change will become the norm. Paying for anything other than only what we use will seem unreasonable and a fear of water meters, a thing of the past!