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Water meters could parch poorest, says councillor

Pic: John Aquino

The poorest families in East London could end up ‘self-rationing’ their water supplies if official plans to prevent future draught are put in place, a Tower Hamlets councillor has warned.

Water meters for billing purposes would be installed in every London home by 2025 under the recommendations of a report by London Assembly’s Health and Environmental Committee.

The report, ‘Water Matters’, proposes two ways of managing the capital’s water – making appliances more efficient, and making people use less of it.

But Joshua Peck, leader of Tower Hamlets council’s Labour group, has expressed concerns about the cost and implications of fitting water meters in east London’s homes.

He said: “Many large families who face rising costs would impose self-rationing that would deprive children in an area which already has London’s biggest child poverty numbers.

“The cost of living has put energy prices up, so many families can’t afford water bills whacked up as well.”

The report claims that water metering will give people a “financial incentive” to use less water, “encouraging households to reduce their usage.”

It says: “Water customers need to be ‘water wise’, to use water efficiently and make adjustments to wasteful behaviours…it is estimated that a typical household uses about ten per cent less water when metered.”

It also calls for Ofwat, the water industry regulator, to work with water companies to implement cheaper “social tariffs” so that vulnerable people have support for “essential water usage”.

Unmetered homes – around 75% in London – are currently charged a flat rate by Thames Water for the provision of water and removal of drainage.

Tim Nichols, a spokesperson for the Child Poverty Action Group, told EastLondo Lines that in a country where almost 30% of children in the UK are living in poverty, the CPAG would need to consider water metering alongside metering of other utilities.

He said: “Social tariffs must have the scope and breadth to meet the needs of families.”.”

According to the report, London cannot rely solely on its own rainfall and Londoners have some of the highest water consumption rates in the country, with each person using on average 167 liters of water a day.

The report concludes that water needs to be recognised “as a scarce and essential resource”, due to increasing population, uncertainty about future rainfall, and the effects of global warming.

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