Water companies in areas of serious water stress in England will be able to seek compulsory water metering as part of their 25-year forward plans, UK environment minister Phil Woolas has announced.

The proposal follows a consultation with companies, regulators, charities and the public, and adds metering to the raft of options for companies, including developing new resources, for ensuring long term security of supply. It will come into effect after the Price Review 2009.

The Environment Agency, an executive nondepartmental body under the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has developed a methodology based on water availability and demand for defining areas of water stress, under which almost all of southeast England is under serious water stress. This area is served by 12 water companies. To date only one, Folkestone and Dover Water, which supplies water to about 160,000 people in eastern Kent, has applied for and been granted permission to introduce compulsory metering.

Currently water metering in England and Wales stands at around 30 percent and is increasing by 2 percent a year.

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