Southern Water has defended the value of water meters after criticisms in a Sunday newspaper, saying that the report failed to give the full picture.
The company, which has a base in Falmer, also flagged up other inaccuracies in coverage in the Sunday Times.
Ben Earl, Southern’s water efficiency manager, said: “We know that keeping bills low is really important to our customers but only when it goes hand in hand with protecting the environment and ensuring there is enough water for future generations.
“That’s why we are concerned the article in the Sunday Times ‘Soaked: metered homes pay 60 per cent more for water’ doesn’t give the full picture of the value of water meters and how they help to save water, money and the environment.
“In England and Wales there are regional differences in domestic water rates. Your domestic water rate will depend on the availability of water in your region and the size of your region.
“Although it seems to rain a lot in England and Wales, water is an increasingly scarce and precious resource in some parts of the country – particularly in the south and southeast of England. And it is likely to become scarcer in the future as our demand for water grows, our population increases and our climate changes.
“That’s why we’re taking action now to make sure supplies continue to be secure in future. This includes tackling leakage, promoting water efficiency and – crucially – installing meters.
“In Southern Water’s region more than 90 per cent of our customers are on a water meter – where you pay for the water you use. This has led to a saving on bills for more than 60 per cent of those customers.
“Our universal metering programme concluded in 2015. The government-backed initiative was brought in as the south east has been classed by the Environment Agency as an area of serious water stress, meaning there’s more demand than supply.
“We absolutely recognise that metering in general, and universal metering in particular, poses the challenge of balancing fairness and affordability of charges and the long-term need for reliable and sustainable water supplies. Metering is a fundamental change in consumers’ relationship with water, as they move from flat rate charges to paying for the volume of water they use.
“Research by the Consumer Council for Water and Ofwat carried out found that most customers think metering is the fairest way to charge and many people find that they can save money by having a meter installed.
“This is backed by an independent Green Alliance research report, which showed on average customers can save an average of £78 on their water and energy bills through simple water efficiency products and behaviour change.
“That’s why we have loads of water saving hints, tips and handy devices to help you stay in control of your bills.
“For more information, visit: https://www.southernwater.co.uk/water-saving-tips-in-the-home.”
Southern chief executive Ian McAulay said when the company’s annual report was published last month: “We are implementing a major transformation of the company.
“Our goals have always been to deliver excellent affordable and environmentally sustainable services in drinking water and treatment of waste water.
“In the past we have fallen short of the expectations of our customers, regulators and stakeholders. In response we have fundamentally changed the way we work.
“We are developing a modern transparent and ethical framework, matching rewards for executives and shareholders with outcomes for customers.
“We are committed to demonstrating to our regulators best practice in how we manage our plants and networks and protect the beautiful and precious environment we work in.”