Economists in the U.K. have found that consumers reduce their water consumption by 16.5 per cent after they receive a metred connection. This reduction is usually achieved shorter after a metre is installed.
The study was conducted by economists at the University of Southampton and was based on a five-year programme to install nearly half a million water metres in the south-east of England. They examined the consumption habits of more than 200,000 customers over a period of four years from 2010. The researchers found that in total customers were making water savings of more than one and a half times the national average of ten per cent.
The research also shows that people cut down their consumption very early in the switching process, even though metered charges aren’t activated until after three months. In the second month after the installation of a meter, consumers saved an average of 37 litres per day. In the third month, they saved an average of 50 litres per day. The reductions continued after metered charges kicked in, reaching an average saving of almost 70 litres after the fourth bill – or two years of metering.
Dr. Mirco Tonin, one of the study leads, says that they were surprised to discover that households started reducing their consumption as soon as the metre is installed because there were no immediate financial incentives to do so because of a three-month ‘grace period’ between installation and switch of contract. One reason could be because the installation focuses the consumers’ attention on water consumption, making them them more aware of the need to save water.