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UK Water Meters: Save Money and Save Water (Householder’s Guide)

Water Meter with a title Guide to UK Water Meter

It's Water Saving Week 2024 this week!

How can you save water? Do water meters save you water? Do water meters really save you money?

According to established organisations, such as Waterwise, Consumer Council for Water (CCW), OFWAT and Money Saving Expert, the simple answer is yes! 


Saving water not only saves you money but also saves the environment, saves our precious water resources and ensures a sustainable protected future!

How are you charged for your water? 

How much do you pay for your water?

Traditionally, water charges in the UK are based on the property's value rather than actual water usage. However, things have changed over the past few decades! Around 40% of customers have water meters in England and Wales and this number is steadily increasing.

Many customers believe that they should be paying for the amount of water they use rather than on the property’s rateable value according to a study by OFWAT.

UK water meters are becoming increasingly common, offering householders a chance to take control of their water use and potentially reduce their bills. Not only can water meters help you save money, but they can also be a valuable tool in promoting water-saving efforts within your household.

This guide dives into the world of UK water meters, explaining how they work, the benefits they offer, and what you need to know as a homeowner.

Are Water Meters Mandatory in the UK?

The short answer is that it depends on your location. 

In England and Wales, water metering is becoming more widespread.  The Government has granted some companies where water is scarce i.e. in water-stressed areas such as the southeast of England, to implement compulsory metering for all properties. 

You can check the water companies in your area to find out their specific policies and timelines for meter installation.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, water meters are currently less common.

Why the Move Towards Metering?

There are several reasons why water companies in the UK are encouraging the use of water meters. 

Here are a couple of key factors:

  • Fairness and Efficiency: Meters ensure that everyone pays for the water they actually use, promoting a fairer system compared to a fixed property-based charge.

  • Water Scarcity Concerns: With increasing pressure on water resources, meters can incentivise water conservation efforts and promote responsible water use across households.

How Can a Water Meter Save You Money?

One of the most attractive benefits of UK water meters for householders is the potential for cost savings on water bills. 

Here's how water meters can make a difference:

You will Pay for What You Use

Unlike the traditional bills based on the property size and its rateable value, water meters allow you to only pay for the exact amount of water your household consumes. This can be particularly advantageous for water-conscious households that actively strive to minimise water usage.

You can Identify Leaks

Hidden leaks can be a major source of water waste along with inflated water bills. Water meters can be a valuable tool for leak detection. 

Since meters track your water usage in real-time, a sudden spike in consumption can indicate a potential leak within your internal plumbing system. Early detection and repair of leaks can save you money on both water bills and potential water damage repairs in your home.

Case Study for a Family of Four

A family of four living in a water-efficient home could use 200,000 litres annually or 200 cubic meters (m³) of water. Here is an example of how the family could easily save more than 20% of their water use which would be around 40,000 litres or 40 cubic meters (m³) of water.

Not only would they save on water bills but also on energy that could have been used to heat up the water.

This saving could be done relatively easily over the year!


Older, regular shower heads typically use around 20 litres of water per minute. A 10-minute shower would average 200 litres per day, 1,400 litres per week, and 7,300 litres per year. If each person reduces their time in the shower by 1 minute a day, that’s a 4 minute reduction of water use a day in total. Over a year that would equate to nearly 3,000 litres in the family’s water use.

Not only do the family save on water but also on energy. Heating water for the shower costs money. So shorter showers equals less water use and less heating costs.

Washing Clothes

Using the washing machine more efficiently, by filling each wash cycle full of clothes, putting it on a quick wash cycle and reducing the washing temperature means that the family would use less water and use less energy. Win-win!

If the family reduced one wash per week, reduced the wash cycle time and temperature they could save 40% on water use and 60% on energy use. If the regular cycle used 150 litres then the quick wash cycle would use 90 litres, saving 60 litres per wash cycle. Over the year this would equate to over 3000 litres in the family’s water use.

Toilet Flushing

Have you heard the ditty ‘If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down’! By refraining from flushing when there is only urine in the bowl will save water use.

The amount of water used in a toilet flush depends on the type of toilet. Older style single flush toilets use 13 litres per flush. However, dual flush toilets use 6 litres for the full flush and 3 litres for the half flush.

As the family has an older style toilet using 13 litres per flush, then by each person not flushing twice a day, the family of four could save over 10% of their total daily usage. There would be a saving of 92 litres per day, or over 33,000 litres annually. That is an incredible water-saving amount!

Total water saving

By slightly reducing shower time, washing clothes and toilet flushing, here is a worked example of how a family of four can relatively easily reduce water consumption and make energy savings.

By installing water meters, families have found that they have used considerably less water than previously. Increased awareness of water usage after meter installation has a positive impact on promoting water conservation.

Real-time data

Unlike the fixed charge system, smart water meters provide real-time data on your water consumption.

This increased visibility can raise awareness of your household's water usage patterns. Seeing the actual numbers can encourage you to be more mindful of how much water you're using and identify areas for potential reduction.

Encourages Water-Saving Habits

Knowing exactly how much water you use can motivate you to implement additional water-saving practices. 

Simple changes can collectively make a big difference in your overall water consumption like:

  • Taking shorter showers 

  • Using a bowl to wash your dishes rather than letting the tap flow

  • Use a watering can to water your garden rather than using a hosepipe or sprinkler system 

  • Fixing leaky taps as soon as they start to drip 

  • Purchasing water-efficient appliances such as washing machines with quick-wash cycles.

How Much Can You Save?

It is believed that households use up to 10% less water on average when a meter has been installed.  The exact amount you can save with a water meter depends on several factors, including:

  • Your current water usage: If you're already a water-conscious household, your savings might be smaller compared to someone with higher usage.

  • The water company's charging structure: Different water companies might have varying unit costs for water consumption.

Some water companies in the UK offer online water usage calculators that can help you estimate potential savings with a meter based on your household size and typical water usage habits. You can find these calculators on your water supplier's website.

Key Considerations

If you're interested in the potential benefits of a UK water meter, here's some helpful information to consider:

Meter Installation

  • In some regions, water companies might be responsible for initiating meter installation in your property.

  • Check with your water supplier to understand their specific policies and timelines for meter installation in your area.

  • If you change your mind after having your meter installed, the company will not remove it. But as long as you make contact within 12 months of the meter being installed, the company will give you the option of going back to paying an unmetered charge based on the property’s rateable value. 

Types of Water Meters:

Mechanical Meters

These are the traditional type, with dials that display your water usage in cubic meters (m³). They are reliable and require minimal maintenance.

Smart Meters

These advanced meters can transmit your water usage data wirelessly to your water supplier. They offer features like real-time consumption monitoring and potential leak detection alerts.

Reading Your UK Water Meter

Once you have a water meter installed, knowing how to read it is crucial.

Here's a simple guide to read a mechanical meter:

  1. Locating Your Meter - Water meters are typically located underground in a meter box near the stop tap outside your house. In some cases, they might be located inside your property, near the stop tap under the kitchen sink or in your garage.

  2. Understanding the Reading - Most water meters will have several dials with black and red numbers. Focus on the black numbers only, as these represent the total water consumption in cubic meters (m³). 

The red numbers and dials usually represent fractions of a cubic meter and can be disregarded for most purposes.

To read your water meter, locate the display panel and identify the units of measurement, usually in cubic meters. The meter reading indicates the total amount of water consumed since installation or the last reading. By periodically recording these readings and comparing them over time, householders can gain insights into their usage patterns and identify opportunities for optimisation.

Water Meter Maintenance

Mechanical water meters are generally low-maintenance devices. However, it's advisable for householders to periodically check their meters for any signs of damage or malfunction. 

Your water company will be responsible for periodic checks to ensure the meter is functioning properly. If you suspect a meter malfunction, contact your water supplier for assistance.


UK water meters offer a compelling proposition for householders. They empower you to take control of your water usage, potentially leading to cost savings on your water bills. But the benefits extend further. Water meters promote water conservation efforts, making a positive impact on the environment.

By taking advantage of UK water meters, you can contribute to a more sustainable future while potentially reducing your water bills.

Take the first step towards efficient water management by contacting your water company to explore meter installation options. Also, consider implementing water-saving strategies in your daily routine to further optimise consumption and reduce environmental impact.

If you are involved with the water industry and want to understand more about the UK Water Meters, and be able to troubleshoot common meter issues. In that case, you can join our course on Introduction to UK Water Metering. We have one that’s happening this month, on 14 June 2024. You can join through this link.

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