‘It felt like an intrusion’: Eastbourne woman’s concern over water meter installation

Pauline Ross
Pauline Ross

An Eastbourne woman has spoken out after a water meter was installed to her home while she was away on holiday.

Pauline Ross, 59, of Old Town, returned from a three week trip to Sri Lanka to discover it had been installed.

She said, “It felt like an intrusion. Okay, they have got the right to do it but I thought they would have given me a letter – many people go on holiday – or wait for a response.

“I think they should have written to me personally with my name, not just a leaflet through the door. I found it under a pile of stuff.

“I’m not pleased. They say it will save me money but I do a lot of gardening, I grow a lot of vegetables and plants, and it takes a lot of water. I was happy to have the monthly bill.

“But it’s more not having a proper letter. It’s the lack of communication.”

Asked to comment, South East Water’s Head of Operations, Jim MacIntyre said, “We introduced our Customer Metering Programme six years ago and more than 80 per cent of our customers now have water meters.

“The programme was started because the south east is classed as a ‘water-stressed’ area which means we have to make the most of our precious resource. Research shows customers with a water meter use 15 per cent less water than those who don’t have one.

“Our Customer Metering Programme is currently working its way through Eastbourne on a street-by-street basis. We are aiming to finish metering in our region by 2020.

“We have had an extensive awareness campaign in Eastbourne, including drop in sessions at the local shopping centre plus press and online advertising.

“This is in addition to the letters we send to individual customers ahead of the installation of their water meter.

“Customers should receive a letter with all the details about the programme three months before we start surveys of the pipework and another letter just before the installation date.

“The water meter is usually installed on the pipework at the boundary of a property – most often in the public footpath - so our customers do not need to be at home when the work is carried out.

“If we do need access to a property we make an appointment with our customer.

“Water metering is a fairer way for our customers to pay for their water, because you only pay for the amount you use, plus a standing charge.

“This means customers have more control over their bills because even small changes can make a lot of difference to the amount of water used.

“For gardeners we recommend installing water butts to collect and store rainwater – plants prefer rainwater to tap water - and discourage the use of sprinklers, which can use a lot of water in a short period of time.

“In addition we also give our customers information about how to reduce wasted water in the home – like turning the tap off when brushing teeth – and offer free water-saving devices.

“There’s lots of water efficiency tips and advice on our website at www.southeastwater.co.uk”

South East Water announcer earlier this year it would begin installing water meters for most domestic customers who do not already have one.

This means customers are billed for the water they use, plus a standing charge.

The programme has involved putting in an about 12,500 water meters across the town and surrounding areas.