Children of parents forced to ration water have developed dysentery, scabies and head lice, the Barnardo's report found.
And in another development a BBC1 Panorama programme to be screened tonight claims that trials of meters were a sham that hid higher costs of metered water.
The Barnardo's report, Liquid Gold, is based on a study of an estate in Bradford, West Yorkshire. It found that households with meters faced bills up to four times as high as neighbours with similar needs who paid water rates. Several children had developed dysentery, scabies and head lice.
According to Panorama the results of meter trials, which indicated that metering does not lead to higher bills, were misleading. The trials failed to take into account the costs of installing and running the meters. In one trial in South Normanton, Derbyshire, customers were charged a lower rate to keep bills down during the trial but found bills soared when it was over.
The Water Services Association, which represents the water industry, said water metering trials showed most people ended up paying about the same as they did before meters were installed. Asked about the Panorama claims the spokesman insisted that the trials were valid.
A spokesman for Ofwat, the water watchdog, said it was concerned with the problems of those on low incomes and had been working with Yorkshire Water to ensure that the charges paid by meter customers were fair.Reuse content