Water metering: in search of a more critical debate.
This paper argues that the envisaged role for domestic metering in conserving and reducing the demands placed upon water resources should be subject to more open and critical debate. Such debate is central to ensuring that related financial resources are targeted in the most effective and efficient way possible. The paper challenges the ability of metering to regulate water demand in an effective, ethical, and equitable manner. In particular, attention is drawn to: the disproportional impact metered charging can have upon lower income groups; the long-term effects of domestic metering being poorly understood; the vacuous bubble within which the economic rationale underpinning metering exists, and how this bubble in turn ignores the reality of daily politics; the costs of fitting and then renewing meters; and the inaccessibility of meters being such that they do not readily remind the consumer of their usage levels. It is concluded that policy makers should reflect carefully on the use of metering, particularly when financial resources are subject to competing demands in relation to the need to improve the quality, access, and availability of water resources within society. While it is not suggested that domestic metering is abandoned altogether, it is argued that more careful consideration should be given to when and where households are metered. Instead, it is asserted that the consumers of water services should have their water usage controlled by stealth and lower cost methods. They should also be exposed to increased education in relation to the benefits of using water efficiently. Stealth measures are interpreted as referring to a more assertive role for government regulation in relation to the water efficiency of households, and the development of new water resources.