“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry” – Thomas Fuller

Between the increasing population density in my part of the UK, an apparently ever increasing demand for water (150 litres per person per day, apparently) and the impact of climate change, our water supplies are becoming a lot less predictable. In my part of the UK (Hampshire) we have been seeing real problems with water shortages during the summer for the last decade or so.

The response from the relatively newly privatised water industry has been to unceremoniously raise prices to cover the cost of “improvements to the infrastructure”, and “years of under-investment”. To be fair to them, the official statistics say that their network is leaking a lot less water than it used to. Unfortunately the average house-owner (well, OK, me!) hasn’t noticed any changes whatsoever – except in the charges. Until last month.

Southern Water are in the vanguard of charging for water by usage, by installing water meters, rather than linking payment to relative size of house. This clearly penalises larger families in smaller houses, though the water company would prefer to suggest that it promotes sensible water usage, and is fairer to everyone. I really can see their argument, but as the owner of what I have always felt to be a relatively modest house, shared with four squeaky-clean women, the thought of being put on a water meter has always made my blood run cold.

But there was only so long that I was able to resist … and last month, the water company swapped out my existing stop-cock in the street for a new one with an integrated water meter. No choice, simply a fait accompli. My initial (tight-fisted) thought was to initiate rationing, but somehow common sense prevailed and I’ve let normal life run its course for the last month with no real mention of this change to my family.

And today I went out into the street, and prised up the cover from the water meter to read it. This in itself was irritating because, despite being a smart meter that can be read remotely, Southern Water don’t issue us with the means to do that, and the meter-manufacturer considers the protocols to be “proprietary” and won’t tell me how to build a decoder. Southern Water will apparently read it every 6 months – which means their (presumably expensive) smart meters are about as useful in changing usage behaviours as the original dumb ones. Which is to say not at all. What a wasted opportunity.

However, at least I got the result for 26 days of water usage, rather than having to wait 6 months for Southern Water to get around to telling me. A further 10 minutes with Southern Waters charging information and a calculator results in the news that …

  • In our house we use about 82 litres of water per person per day
  • That works out at about 150m3 per year, which is significantly to the right side of “average” for a 5 person house
  • If I understand their charges correctly, my annual bill is about to be approximately halved.

I’m not sure whether to jump up and down shouting “RESULT!”, or slink off into the corner for not having elected to have a meter fitted a few years back when it first became an option. But clearly the next action has to be to find a way to read that smart meter in real time, and integrate it into my whole house monitoring, as I did with electricity, using my CurrentCost monitor.

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