Charging by volume for water used, and therefore installing meters, is the fairest approach to charging in Britain, the independent “Walker review” on charging for water and sewerage services has concluded.

There is a strong case for metering where water is scarce and the benefits outweigh the costs, for high discretionary users who may not be paying for what they use currently, and on change of occupancy. However, the case for metering is less compelling when water is not in short supply.

The Walker review, conducted by Anna Walker, who is also chairman of the Office of the Rail Regulator, was established to examine the current system of charging households for water and sewerage services, and to make recommendations on any actions that should be taken to ensure that England and Wales have a sustainable and fair system of charging in place.

If the review’s recommendations are adopted, approximately 80% of households in England will be metered by 2020 and a lower number in Wales because of the availability of more water.

The review recommends that the UK Government and Welsh Assembly Government should revisit the policy on household water metering in the light of climate change projections, expected population growth and the latest work on catchment assessment management strategies. While not recommending universal compulsory metering, the review says that in areas where the wider cost benefit analysis indicates that it would be beneficial, systematic, area wide metering schemes should be rolled out. Further, companies should adopt systematic metering of high discretionary users and on change of occupier.

www.defra.gov.uk