HC Deb 03 July 1997 vol 297 cc275-6W
Mr. Robert McCartney

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many and what percentage of properties in(a) North Down and (b) Northern Ireland have water meters; how many were charged for excess use and how much was collected in each of the last three years; and when she expects metering to become universal. [5638]

Mr. Paul Murphy

Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Water Service under its Chief Executive, Mr. H. R. F. Plester. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from H. R. F. Plester to Mr. Robert McCartney, dated 30 June 1997: The Secretary of State has asked me to reply your recent Parliamentary Question asking what percentage of properties in Northern Ireland and North Down have water meters, how many were charged for excess use and how much was collected in each of the last three years, and when water metering is expected to become universal. In Northern Ireland domestic properties are unmetered. Domestic customers pay for water and sewerage services through their contribution to the regional rate. Water supplies to non-domestic properties, mainly in the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors, are metered where it is assessed that consumption may exceed the domestic property allowance of 100 cubic metres in any six month period. A farm with a metered supply, which also includes a domestic household, is given the domestic usage allowance for that proportion of the property comprised by the household. All supplies serving properties on which full rates are not payable are also metered. There are currently 68,787 metered water supplies in Northern Ireland of which 51,562 are chargeable. There are a number of reasons why a property may be metered but not charged including usage recorded below the domestic allowance level, test metering for leakage control purposes, etc. Income received in the last three financial years was £26.5 million in 1994–95, £27.7 million in 1995–96 and £29.4 million in 1996–97. There are no charges levied for excess use. Metered water customers are responsible for paying for all water recorded by their meters as passing from the public water supply network to their private pipework. If a metered water customer encounters very high demand because of a burst, or fittings failure, or their private pipework, they may apply for a reduction on their bill. Such an allowance is, however, granted on a strictly 'once only' basis. The experience of one such episode of exceptional use or wastage is considered to have put a customer on guard that they are in future responsible for all water their meter records as being used on their property. They should, thereafter, put in place appropriate monitoring to identity at an early stage any unexplained rise in consumption on their premises. Records maintained by the Water Service relate to the numbers of metered supplies rather than properties supplied. A metered supply may service more than the property to which it was initially provided and, therefore, it is not possible to determine the number of individual properties which are provided for by metered supplies. The North Down constituency boundaries do not equate to Water Service metering areas and information on the number of water meters in this area, or on the income received from them, is not available. The Water Service has no plans to introduce universal water metering in Northern Ireland.