Apartment dwellers wanting to conserve water but seeing no benefits due to bulk metering may find reprieve if a change to National Measurement Institute rules is approved.
While new apartments are required to install sub-meters, there are thousands of old apartments that currently have one meter for the whole apartment, leading to an inequitable distribution of costs, the inability for landlords to pass on water use charges and no incentive for occupants to save water.
An Australian company, Fair Water Meters, is seeking changes to rules that make it uneconomical for apartment owners to install individual sub meters. At present, the NMI’s “200 rule” means only meters with a capacity of 2500 and 4000 litres an hour can be installed, capacities Fair Water Meters says greatly exceed what is necessary for domestic use, leading to individual meters that are bulky, unsightly and prohibitively expensive.
The company has developed a smaller 1600L/h meter it says can easily be retrofitted into apartments in 20 minutes for around $650, and is calling on the public to sign a petition to have the 200 rule repealed to align Australia with world standards.
Fair Water Meters director Chris Terblanche said this type of metering had been used in Europe for 20 years, and that Australians were being denied access to world class metering technology by the NMI.
“With the current bulk billing of water, those who are single or actively trying to conserve water are often penalised, as they end up paying the same amount as a large family or someone who wastes water,” Mr Terblanche said. “Our device could put an end to this inequitable system, but to make it commercially available, the NMI needs to relax or repeal its 200 rule and allow smaller meters.”
Fair Water Meters general manager Mary Terblanche said there were both financial and environmental benefits to the proposed change.
“Individual water meters are essential for detecting leaks and monitoring usage, so changing this regulation will have a positive flow-on effect with tangible benefits for everyone, including the environment,” she said.
She expected support from landlords in particular, who are only able to pass on water bills to tenants if the property is individually metered. Tenants could still benefit, though.
“Some investors shy away from purchasing properties on a shared meter, or they estimate the cost and add it to the rent, which artificially elevates the rental market.”
Ms Terblanche said water prices had increased by 200 per cent in the last eight years and with the trend towards privatisation of supply companies, costs were only going to go up.
The NMI is currently reviewing water metering rules, and if the changes don’t go through this time it could be another six years before the chance comes again.
“Peak bodies and government agencies all agree that the time is right and the rules are up for change,” Ms Terblanche said.
“However, we still need a wave of people power to ensure that the consumers’ voice is heard by the NMI, who are now considering the adoption of the updated international water metering regulations (OIML R49) 2013.”
Submissions are being sought by the National Measurement Institute on the issue until 30 September.