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Arqiva predicts smart water metering could deliver a £1.9bn net benefit to society

By Tim Wickham
16 December 2021

The rollout of smart water metering by 2030 could deliver huge benefits for households, the environment and the water industry, according to new cost-benefit research commissioned by Winchester-based Arqiva.

Arqiva, ranked first in The Business Magazine's Solent 250 list this year, provides critical data, network and communication services to the UK’s broadcast and utilities sectors. Arqiva commissioned independent research by Frontier Economic and Artesia that found the coordinated rollout of smart metering would deliver £4.4bn in benefits to society against costs of £2.5bn. That represents a net benefit of £1.9bn.

The analysis points to an environmental and social benefit of £1.73 for every £1 of cost incurred. Savings would come from improved leakage control and network management, and by avoiding the need for other water resources.

The return on investment would mean water companies incurred lower total costs, which in turn should enable reduced water bills for households over time. Fitting one million smart water meters in the UK each year for the next 15 years could save one billion litres of water a day by the mid-2030s, and reduce the UK’s current greenhouse gas emissions by up to 0.5%.

The study shows a positive benefits-to-cost ratio in all areas of England and Wales. The highest ratio is in the South-East and East of England and reflects higher existing meter penetration and greater water scarcity in those areas.

The figures also show that while smart watering metering delivers the strongest return when households are moved onto metering charging within three years of installation, there is still a positive benefit-to-cost ratio when meters are rolled out but households choose to stick with unmetered billing. This is because a high proportion of customers are expected to switch to metered charging over time, and benefits such as leak detection and improved flow estimation are independent of billing and consumer behaviour.

The research highlights that metered customers are more likely to be aware of the water scarcity challenges the UK faces, are more likely to be aware of their own water use and are much more likely to act to try to save water.

Laurie Patten, Director of Strategy and Regulation at Arqiva, said:

“The positive impact of smart water metering is crystal clear – for consumers, the environment, and for industry too. Progress is being made but more needs to be done, especially given the urgency of the climate challenge facing us all. More positive support from governments and regulators to encourage and accelerate a comprehensive smart meter rollout would see these benefits realised at a much faster pace.”

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