LETTER:Water meters: an equitable cure for shortages?

From Mr Michael Taylor

Sir: The Department of Environment's proposals on water conservation encourage metering for people's homes ("Gummer backs spread of meters to cut water use", 21 August). Save the Children is very concerned about the impact such a policy could have on the health and welfare of children of low-income families.

Preliminary findings from research undertaken by Save the Children earlier this year suggest that families on low incomes with water meters are placed under extra pressure to save water, just to keep their bills down. The measures undertaken can sometimes be quite drastic.

Government statistics indicate that the national average proportion of income spent on water by all metered households is around 1 per cent. For low-income families, the study found that the proportion of income they spent on water was about four times this amount. Those in arrears spent a lot more. The families we spoke to in this study said that they were having to put their children's health on the line because they cannot afford to pay for water.

We hope that this study will alert policy-makers to consider these problems, which could become more widespread if water metering was introduced universally. In determining a policy on charging for water, a key principle should be that water for basic human needs should be affordable to all families.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Taylor

UK and European

Programmes Director

Save the Children

London, SE5