Wellington, New Zealand --- (METERING.COM) --- October 9, 2008 - Engineers in New Zealand have called for the mandatory introduction of universal water metering in order to send price signals to users to better manage their demand and incentivize capital investment.

In a report from the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ), “Water: New Zealand’s Valuable Natural Resource,” it is recommended that local authorities should be required to charge for water and wastewater on a volumetric basis, and that legislation be amended accordingly.

New Zealand is naturally well endowed with water resources and for most of the country’s history, water has been readily available. However, rapidly increasing demand, which has accelerated in the last two decades with changing land use and urbanization, is placing the water resources at risk. In many areas, water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource and water quality is declining. There is also ever increasing competition for water, for environment minimum flows, recreation, energy, public services and commercial needs.

While most water users believe that an unlimited supply of water will always be there and should be freely available as of “right”, the future mismanagement of water has the potential to place New Zealand’s future economic growth at risk, given that the resource is fundamental for the key food export industries.

In order to ensure that a value is placed on water, New Zealand needs to use economic instruments to control contamination, allocate water and manage demand. And placing a value on water will incentivize new behaviors in the way that water is looked after, used, recycled and reused.

The report says that currently there is poor pricing of water supply and wastewater services in New Zealand. Moreover water metering is inconsistent throughout the country. Most councils measure the amount of water treated and placed in the distribution system and meter for commercial and industrial consumption on a volumetric basis, but few councils measure the treated water that is delivered to domestic users and simply apply uniform annual charges for water and wastewater.

Universal water metering provides a direct link between the customer and provider, and can reduce the consumption of water by as much as 40 percent compared with unmetered systems. Universal water metering also will assist in reducing system losses, which average 20 percent.

Other actions that will reduce the consumption of water include public education and the promotion of water saving devices and appliances, and it is recommended that mandatory water efficiency labelling of appliances should be introduced.

A water equalization fund also should be established, to assist councils and communities in the development and maintenance of water infrastructure.

“Water needs to be regarded as an economic and social private good. Our current approach is holding New Zealand back and preventing us achieving the maximum benefit from this resource,” says IPENZ in the report, which sets out a series of recommendations that have been identified by engineers to improve every aspect of the country’s entire water cycle.