Introducing water meters to every home in Northern Ireland would cost £106m, the Minister for Regional Development has revealed.
The figure was given by Conor Murphy who was responding to a question from UUP Assembly Member Sam Gardiner.
“I have been advised by Northern Ireland Water that it estimates the cost of installing a water meter in all domestic properties would be in the region of £106m,” Mr Murphy said.
“This estimate takes into account the number of meter-ready chambers already installed at domestic properties since their use began in the 1990s and is based on current tendered rates for meter installation.
“There are circumstances where it may not be possible to fit a meter, such as shared supplies, engineering difficulties and obstructions.”
Mr Gardiner had posed the question because he is concerned the Executive may eventually be forced to implement metering.
Although opposed to water charges, he said that if water rates were to be introduced the only way to do so would be through metering.
“We cannot have a situation developing where elderly people on fixed incomes and often declining incomes have to pay the same as a large family with one or even two salaries coming in,” said Mr Gardiner.
“They do not use the same amount of water and they should not have to pay the same.
“Water metering would at least be accurate and transparent if the doomsday situation of water charges were forced on the Executive.”
As well as being the fairer option, he said water meters would conserve water and cut down on wastage.
“Meters typically reduce water consumption by 10%. Householders are charged only for the water they actually use, rather than a flat fee, making them more aware of waste,” said the Upper Bann MLA.
“If we were to introduce meters we could expect to offset the level of water lost though leakages by another 10% — that is by the equivalent of 18 million litres a day, bringing it below the economic level for leakages, which I believe is set at 165 million litres a day in the province.
“That is the sort of saving which cannot be ignored,” he said.
Mr Gardiner added: “If we suddenly found water charges coming at us out of the blue, I want it clearly understood that it should only be by metering.”
A DRD spokeswoman said: “The Executive has deferred the introduction of additional household payments. The Executive has not decided how any charges would be levied, through metering or any other method.”