Wellington Scoop

Water meters suggested as a way to save water – communities to be consulted

News from Wellington Water
The Wellington Water Committee has received the Economic Case for Providing Residential Water Consumption Information that evaluates a range of options to reduce water demand, support customer engagement, reduce environmental impacts, and improve network management.

“The Wellington Region water supply system (from catchment-to-tap) is under increasing pressure,” says Wellington Water Committee Chair, David Bassett.

“The high rate of population growth, together with high per-capita water consumption, is putting pressure on our existing water sources and an ageing network is contributing to an increase in leaks and water loss.

“If action is not taken to reduce this demand in the next five-six years, the frequency and severity of water use restrictions will increase and the region will need to make a significant investment in developing new water sources, storage facilities, and treatment option,” says David Bassett.

The economic case identifies one of the tools which could be used to conserve water is residential meters.

“A key focus area for achieving demand reductions is network leakage, however we have relatively limited information about where water is being used, making it difficult to determine where these leaks are occurring,” says David Bassett.

The economic case states the amount of water being lost in the network through leaks is estimated at being anywhere between 6 and 31 per cent of the total volume we have treated and supplied.

“The installation of advanced meter infrastructure (AMI, or “smart” meters) in every household with automated reporting has been identified as a proven methodology to find leaks and provide customers timely advice on water usage.

“The Committee will be working closely with shareholder councils before any final decision is made and this will involve consultation with all communities.

“The Wellington Water Committee has also directed Wellington Water to prepare a detailed business case to further refine the case for residential meters,” says David Bassett.

Wellington Water is owned by Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington city councils, South Wairarapa District Council and the Greater Wellington Regional Council. A representative from each authority sits on the Wellington Water Committee that provides overall leadership and direction for the company.


  1. Will de Cleene, 26. November 2020, 9:06

    Before water meters were introduced to Kapiti, water restrictions were common over summer. There have been no water restrictions since their introduction seven or so years ago. [via twitter]

  2. greenwelly, 26. November 2020, 10:11

    Kapiti solved their water shortages by spending $20+ million to extract Bore water, pipe it up to the Waikanae water treatment plant and release it into the river to replace an increased take of fresh water from the river. To imply that meters solved the prior water shortages is simply untrue.

  3. IanS, 27. November 2020, 20:43

    If you do not measure usage, you do not value it and you can not control it.
    Payment through a rates charge to all properties means the frugal or water-efficient householders are subsidising the big or wasteful users. We installed a ‘voluntary” water meter 20(+?) years ago. Modern, smart water meters are essential and must be installed on all houses as soon as possible to help track leaks, otherwise we will be wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on new dams and reservoirs.

    With a water meter, WCC water charges to our water-frugal family have been a lot smaller than the annual water rate charge (to single old lady across the street). The ‘myth’ that had to be sunk was that ‘as soon as everyone had a meter, then water supply would be sold off’. That was a genuine neo-liberal fear in the 1990s and 2000s but is no longer applicable. Today’s councillors know that if they even consider such options they will be voted out.

    The electricity network companies are trying to get this sort of fixed charging for residential electricity – many industry reports support – but MPs know they will be voted out if they support such stupidity. Energy efficiency and frugal users should not be subsidising larger users.

    Let’s do the right thing – install water meters!

  4. NigelTwo, 28. November 2020, 11:23

    Auckland City has water meters and water restrictions.
    Water meters are like the joker in a deck of cards – it can only be played once. Unless “time of day/date” water usage charges are introduced (gulp).
    So with a growing population and associated water demand, new infrastructure is a must. Not a debate about metering.

  5. Another Mark, 28. November 2020, 17:03

    @ Ian. Yes. The general rate approach to water charging would at first glance look like there might be some cross-subsidisation – but it would be marginal at best, and more likely non-existent when you consider the general rate already apportions costs based on property value. Larger properties (where more people tend to reside, and therefore consume more water) are worth more, so pay more through the general rates. Water meters are just another (more expensive) method to apportion water maintenance costs amongst ratepayers. It’s more expensive, because meters add extra costs to the apportionment process (ie depreciation and meter maintenance\replacement costs) which the ratepayer will also have to fund. Yes, initially, meters do reduce water consumption, but perversely any reduction in water consumption using meters results in unit price rises. So the ratepayer ends up paying more for using less. This is not because the council is charging for water (water is free), rather they are charging for the maintenance costs of the infrastructure. Council still needs to raise the same amount of money to maintain the system. Instead of apportioning costs on property value, it’s apportioned across the forecast level of water consumption (which derives the unit price). In the long run, ratepayers with flat incomes are worse off.