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 could reduce the UK’s current greenhouse gas emissions by up to 0.5%.

These figures are according to a joint analysis from Arqiva, the leading UK communications infrastructure and media services provider, and Waterwise, the not-for-profit UK NGO focused on reducing water consumption in the UK. Together they have launched a report highlighting how smart meter technologies can help to address the country’s climate emergency.

The high-resolution data that smart water meters provide helps support water saving behaviour changes by customers and enables water suppliers to quickly find and fix leaks. The report, Smart water metering and the climate emergency, calculates how these savings can help meet future water supply needs and also deliver significant reductions in annual UK greenhouse gas emissions by reducing consumer demand.

Of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, 6% are estimated to arise through household water supply and use. Of these, 90% relate to water use in the home. The remaining 10% of emissions come from water companies supplying water and removing and treating wastewater. On top of this, the Environment Agency estimates that without action around water management, England will face a water supply deficit of over 3.4 billion litres of water a day by 2050.

Failure to act now poses risks to our economy, society and the environment.

What the report is calling for:

  • In England, the link between metering, charging and water stressed area classification should be removed and the PR24 investment planning process used to enable water companies to accelerate the roll out of smart meters;
  • In England, this change should form part of a mandated programme to ensure that all households have a smart water meter by 2035, with appropriate support in place for vulnerable customers;
  • In Scotland, Wales and Northern Island we urge the devolved government to review their current positions and take action to encourage and support the industry to adopt water metering, thus taking into account the wider benefits for society, the environment and in particular their commitments to address the Climate Emergency as the UK attempts to meet its net zero ambitions.

Nicci Russell, managing director at Waterwise, said: “It’s vital that UK governments and regulators recognise the role that smart meters can play in reducing carbon emissions alongside water usage and leakage. Our analysis confirms that they have the potential to make a huge difference in meeting the challenge of the climate emergency - helping us adapt to climate change and mitigate further impact on the climate. This is a great opportunity for governments and regulators to support customers to reduce their carbon footprint and their energy and water bills, as well as help make sure there's enough water to go round.”

Laurie Patten, director of strategy & regulation at Arqiva, said: “These findings clearly show the vital role that smart metering technology can play in helping the UK meet its climate change commitments. We urge the UK Governments and regulators to fully support the water industry to embrace this opportunity.

“By highlighting household water consumption and detecting leakage, smart meters are helping change behaviours, reduce usage and drive down greenhouse gas emissions. Given the urgency of the climate threat, it’s important that the UK Governments and regulators encourage and support water companies to implement smart metering at pace.”