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Water meters for over 30,000 homes
RESIDENTS in the Basingstoke area will be forced to have water meters fitted when South East Water starts to roll out a universal metering scheme this summer.
Households face years of disruption as South East Water installs meters in Basingstoke and beyond until 2013, and Southern Water, which supplies homes in the area west of the town, begins putting meters in from 2015.
More than 30,000 unmetered properties will be caught up in the roll-out by South East Water, while thousands of other customers will be affected when Southern Water starts its local metering.
The majority of meters will be fitted under pavements, meaning that noisy road breakers and disc cutters will be used to drill into the pavements. Homes will have their water disconnected for between 10-15 minutes during the installation process.
There are concerns that the programme, which will cost South East Water £50million over the next five years, and Southern Water £83m over the same period, will lead to higher tariffs for all customers over the next decade, and high bills, in particular, for large families However, Charles Healey, metering manager for South East Water, said that the installation of meters is the most cost-effective option for the region, which is classed as an area of “serious water stress”.
He also gave assurances that installation work would be quick and as unobtrusive as possible, and claimed that real environmental benefits will result from the scheme.
He said: “With a high population density in the area and a limited supply of water, it is vital that we act now to protect our future.
“There are also serious environmental issues that metering can help combat. Being charged for what you use makes people think much more about the amount they are using.”
On average, households reduce their water consumption by around 10 per cent after a meter is fitted, but bills will inevitably increase for an estimated 50 per cent of customers.
Worst hit will be large families, but Rachel Lawson, communications officer for South East Water, said: “We are currently developing a range of financial support measures designed to help customers who may have difficulty paying any increase in their new metered water bill.”
New charges for the metered customers will come into force from 2012, but those who see an increase in bills will not pay the new, full amount until April 2014, as the increase will be introduced by gradual percentages over five bills.
Basingstoke, Sevenoaks and Burgess Hill will be the first areas to be targeted in the installation programme by South East Water.
Southern Water began their five-year metering programme in Southampton in December last year. Nationwide, South East Water and Southern Water are the only two water companies that are forcing water meters on their customers.
In Basingstoke, almost 33,000 unmeasured properties will be metered by South East Water during the 85-week programme, starting in Oakley and Wootton St Lawrence, Hatch Warren, and Kempshott, moving into Chineham, Old Basing and Eversley in 2012 and to Hook and further afield in 2013.
In 2015, people living in Overton, Whitchurch, Kingsclere, Burghclere, Baughurst and Highclere will be among 500,000 households in the South East to have their meters installed by Southern Water.
It is estimated by South East Water that 60 per cent of installations will be under pavements, 27 per cent of installations will be in an existing meter chamber, 10 per cent will be in the highway verge, two per cent will be on the customer’s property and one per cent will be in the highway.
Surveys by South East Water will start as soon as this month, and households will start receiving brochures, detailing how the programme will be carried out, three months before they are due to be metered. Households will be given an estimated date of installation at least two weeks before.
Customer drop-in sessions are being held by South East Water on April 13 at Old Down Hall, Kempshott, from 3pm-5pm, and April 19 at Hatch Warren Community Centre, from 6.30pm-9pm.