Water Services Pricing Policy
Government policy requires local authorities to recover the cost of providing water services from the users of these services, with the exception of households using the services for domestic purposes. This is in accordance with the polluter pays principle and the requirements of Article 9 of the EU Water Framework Directive.
The policy provides for full cost recovery without profit, with charges based on actual metered consumption. The cost of providing water services to the non-domestic sector includes elements of infrastructure provision including meter installation and operation and maintenance costs and varies from authority to authority.
Non-Domestic Water Metering
Charges for water services differ between local authorities, depending on the cost of their capital (water services infrastructure) programmes, the cost of operating their treatment plants and the cost of administering the metering /billing elements of their programmes.
In accordance with government Water Pricing Policy, local authorities are identifying and metering all the non-domestic users of their water services. Non-domestic supplies would include supplies for trades, industry and businesses, including agriculture, hotels, B&Bs and any other short-term accommodation, and also educational or sports facilities as well as hospitals or community or charitable services. Customers’ bills are calculated by means of a metered charge based on the volume of water used. In most cases this charge includes for water supply and sewage collection and disposal, i.e., on the basis of the "water in/water out" principle. Where the installation of a meter is impracticable, local authorities can issue bills based on a fixed charge. Where a meter measures both a non-domestic supply and a domestic (household) supply, credit will be given for the domestic element.
The metering of non-domestic water supply connections is considered to be a more equitable way for non-domestic customers to pay for water services. Metering is also a useful tool in identifying leaks in the water piping system and thereby benefits water conservation.
The funding of domestic water services will continue through the Water Services Investment Programme for infrastructure projects and through the Local Government Fund for operational costs.
Metering Provisions in Legislation
Part 5 of the Water Services Act 2007 contains provisions relating to metering of water supplies and waste water discharges, enabling a water services provider to supply water and measure the volume of water supply or rate of discharge of waste water via a meter and a charge in respect of meters provided. It is an offence to tamper with a meter or to manufacture or possess anything designed or adapted to make a meter under-record.
Procedures to deal with consumer complaints relating to meters will also be provided for under Part 5 of the Water Services Act 2007. These will outline the rights of consumers in this area, and how they may be exercised.
Metering facilitates enforcement of general water conservation measures by water services authorities (County and City Councils), and complements the general duty of care to keep water distribution and waste water discharge systems leak-free.