Should We Have a Feed in Tariff System for Water Use?

12/04/2012 10:25 BST | Updated 11/06/2012 10:12 BST

Last week, several UK water companies introduced a hosepipe ban. They subsequently admitted they were unsure about how long it would stay in place for. All will depend on how much rain we will get - something that isn't very likely, even though a lot of people are likely to have got a good wash over the Easter period.

The truth is, the droughts have been building up over the last two winters as the UK has experienced significantly lower rainfall than normal, combined with a rising population, and rising demand for food, all of which increases the stress on our water system. The drought might even extend to the north and west as it strengthens its grip on Britain.

This could, and should, be the perfect opportunity to ask ourselves a few questions:

1. Why are we using water so unsustainable?

2. Should we have an all-year-round hosepipe ban?

3. Is a hosepipe ban really an effective solution to our water problems?


We should be worried about the drought. Just look at Texas, whose citizens have recently fought a year-long drought - that followed a year of flooding.

This extreme weather is just another example of the impacts of climate change which we're starting to feel now in the developed world.

It's becoming impossible for us to predict the weather, even and in our own backyard. Just a few weeks ago Aberdeen was basking in record temperatures of 23 degrees, only to be replaced by arctic weather that left thousands of homes without power just days later.

The reality is that we don't really know what is normal anymore and weather forecasters find it increasingly hard to predict the weather, even though our systems gets more and more advanced!


So what do we do about it?

I believe a hosepipe ban presents a backward way of thinking. How can you have a water saving system that relies on neighbours to spy on each other and report transgressors to the water board?

All the while, you can still get away with using as much water as you like, provided you don't use a hosepipe.

Don't get me wrong, I think several things that you use a hosepipe for are pathetic, like watering lawns, sports grounds, filling up basins and swimming pools. We certainly need some kind of ban all-year-round regardless of whether we're facing a drought or not, but we will need to find a coherent manageable system; not an old fashioned one that belongs in the 50's.

So how do we save water then?

One of the most obvious ways is to make it mandatory for everyone to pay for their water, based on a water metering system. That is the only sustainable, sensible and fair solution.

At the moment everyone can chose to pay a set amount every month, regardless of how much water they consume. That is not fair on those who are sparing in their water use and might even have invested in watering butts and rainwater harvesting.

It's not right that they should be charged the same amount as someone who decides it's necessary to wash their cars every weekend.


Investing in rainwater saving systems ought to be the priority of the government and water industry. But perhaps it's not in the companies' interest as big investments in these techniques could revolutionise where we get our water from in this country.

Perhaps to encourage this, the UK government should be looking at something similar to the popular, though now reduced, feed-in tariff scheme (FIT) where you are paid on a rate based for every kWh of electricity you generate.

It would be easy to have the same system with water, based on the amount of rainwater you collect. That would definitely encourage investment in these technologies. Needless to say, it should also be made mandatory to have these things installed into all new buildings.


Pricing of water which will come alongside water metering should also be looked at. Water in the UK is currently very cheap compared to other countries in Europe and it's about time we start pricing it for what it's really worth. Water isn't as abundant as we might think, financial regulation and proper pricing is the key to save water.

Add to that, a high tariff that would come into place when you used more that what is calculated to be sustainable depending if you're living on your own or a family of four.

This leads up to my conclusion that we need to develop a proper sustainable and modern water system that reflect the world of today and not to rely on old out of date methods.