Water meters will save wildlifeUnited Kingdom
Water meters must be installed in every home in England and Wales over the next decade to prevent over abstraction killing wildlife in rivers, the WWF has warned.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned that a third of river catchments were facing damage as a result of too much water being taken out of them.
Following a summer which has seen drought and water shortages leading to hosepipe bans in some areas, thecharity is calling on the Government and water companies to ensure universal metering is in place by 2020 to help cut demand.
Over-extraction of water from rivers can lead to water courses drying out during summer droughts, killing wildlife including fish and endangered water voles, while lower levels of water throughout the year can also damage nature.
Chalk streams, which are unique to England, require strong, fast-flowing water courses to provide a healthy ecosystem, such as the gravel beds trout and salmon need for spawning.
Currently just over a third (37%) of households have water meters, and a Government review last year recommended England and Wales should move towards 80 per cent metering by 2020, WWF said.
The latest five-year plans from water companies indicate the number is likely to rise to half of all homes by 2015 - which WWF warns is still only half of what is needed to protect rivers.
Installing meters into all homes would enable householders to see how much water they were using, and improve companies' understanding of water demand.
On average, people cut water use by around 10% to 15% once a meter is installed, while companies can use metering information to target efficiency measures - such as mending leaky systems - where it is needed, WWF said.
Rose Timlett, freshwater policy officer at WWF-UK, said: "Not only is the current water charging system unfair and outdated, it is also piling huge pressure on our rivers and their wildlife.
"One third of our river catchments are facing damage because we are simply taking too much water out of them, a problem that is set to get worse with climate change and a rising population.
"With the current water shortages across the country, water companies and the Government should be doing all they can to help more households install a water meter."
WWF is working with water companies on metering projects to show it is possible to reduce demand, but wants the Government to take a nationwide approach to the problem, and ensure the forthcoming White Paper includes a requirement for every home to have a meter.
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