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MPs: Set targets for water meters

The Government must set clear targets for increasing the number of homes with water meters as part of efforts to better manage England's water supplies, MPs have urged.

Current plans to reform the regime for taking water from rivers by the mid-to-late 2020s will not take effect swiftly enough given that rivers are already running dry, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said.

The committee's report into the Government's plans for conserving scarcer water resources in the face of climate change and population growth, outlined in the Water White Paper, warned more urgent action is needed by ministers.

The report comes in the wake of drought and floods, with two unusually dry winters in a row leaving parts of England parched before three months of record-breaking rainfall caused flooding across much of the country.

Around 40% of homes in England and Wales are metered, which means more than half the population has no connection between the amount of water they use and the size of their bills. The report said it was "extremely disappointing" that the Water White Paper did not have targets for meter coverage.

The committee's chairwoman Anne McIntosh said the MPs had heard "persuasive evidence", during hearings on the Government's Water White Paper, about the environmental damage unleashed by over-abstraction from rivers.

She said: "The Government's current plans - to reform the abstraction regime by the mid-to-late 2020s - will not take effect rapidly enough given that our rivers are already running dry. Installing a meter is the most effective way to improve water efficiency, providing a clear incentive for householders to minimise wastage."

Shadow water minister Gavin Shuker said: "This Tory-led Government is dragging its feet, delaying crucial legislation to reform the water industry. Today's publication of the Parliament Select Committee report on the Government's Water White Paper report should act as a wake-up call for the Government."

Water Minister Richard Benyon said: "I don't believe a one-size-fits-all solution is the best way forward and companies should work with their customers to find the solution that works best in their local area.

"Metering can cause some household bills to rise and I do not want to see anyone struggling to pay. Those companies that are introducing metering should protect vulnerable households."

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