Smart Meters and Domestic Water Usage FR/R0023 of Current Knowledge 2 CONTENTS Page 1 Introduction: the need for smart water metering 3 2 Smart metering: definition, benefits, and challenges 4 2.1 Smart metering defined 5 2.2 Benefits of smart metering 8 2

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  • A Review of Current Knowledge

    Smart Meters and Domestic

    Water Usage

    FR/R0023 May 2015

    Foundation for Water Research

    Price: 15.00 (20% discount to FWR Members)

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  • Foundation for Water Research 2015


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    This review is one of a series of Reviews Of Current Knowledge (ROCKs) produced by FWR. They focus on topics related to water supply, wastewater disposal and water environments, which may be the subject of debate and inquiry. The objective of each review is to produce concise, independent scientific and technical information on the subject to facilitate a wider understanding of the issues involved and to promote informed opinion about them.

  • Review of Current Knowledge


    Smart Meters and Domestic Water Usage

    Cover page image Thames Water Utilities Ltd

    Authors: Alexis Pericli and James O. Jenkins University of Hertfordshire Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences

  • Review of Current Knowledge




    Introduction: the need for smart water metering 3

    2 Smart metering: definition, benefits, and challenges 4 2.1 Smart metering defined 5

    2.2 Benefits of smart metering 8 2.3 Smart metering challenges 10

    3 Applications of smart water metering 11

    4 The governance backdrop to smarter water metering 20

    5 Smart metering technology: installation, design, and interaction 27 5.1 Installation 28

    5.2 Design 29 5.3 Interaction 30

    6 The influence of socio-demographic, contextual and behavioural factors


    7 Changes in management and water usage as a result of smart meters



    The role of water efficient household appliances and fittings 43

    8.1 The impact of efficient devices on water demand 43 8.2 Attempts to benchmark water efficient fittings and appliances 46

    9 Conclusion: making smart meters work 49 10 References 52

  • Review of Current Knowledge


    1 Introduction: the need for smart water metering As global demand for water increases and shows no sign of abatement, the metering of domestic water usage, and the application of smart or intelligent meter technologies, is increasingly viewed as being central to reducing the demand for water and facilitating more effective management. Smart meters are argued to encourage more equitable allocation, through application of the user-pays principle. This results in the water user paying for what they actually consume, while seeking to associate usage and cost in order to provide a fairer and more sustainable management solution (Westerlund, 1996; Boyle et al., 2013). From a broad perspective, numerous studies have identified the positive impact the metering of domestic water users can have on reducing water usage (Grigg, 2011; Memon & Butler, 2006). It is argued that a reduction in usage occurs because metered users become more aware of the economic consequences of their water usage behaviour, with them subsequently reducing their usage to minimise the associated economic costs (Bakker, 2001; Chambouleyron, 2004). Smart meters subsequently offer consumers the opportunity to not only monitor their water usage more easily and remotely, via a computer or smart phone, through improved bills, and in-home displays, but also more frequently through real-time [or near real-time] instant access (Darby, 2010; Lima & Navas, 2012). This affords the user the opportunity to become more informed about their water consumption. By gaining information with regard to usage, consumers can become more informed about their water usage behavior. This is central to encouraging efficiency and more sustainable management of water resources. Approaches such as metering have the potential to empower the consumer through increased awareness of both consumption and the volumetric cost of water. The user-pays principle, which is intrinsic to metering, can also encourage individuals to have a greater sense of responsibility for their practices due to it emphasizing the consequences of their actions (Darby, 2010). From the perspective of the water industry in the United Kingdom [UK], particularly in the context of England and Wales, plans to fully embrace water metering technology are currently at a crossroad. For example, although some companies plan to embrace smart meters for all of their consumers [e.g. Thames Water], many are focusing on more traditional or dumb forms of metering [e.g. Affinity Water] due to an inability to demonstrate a positive cost benefit case to the water regulator. However, even when smart metering technology is embraced, there are many issues that need to be considered if the technology is to facilitate a change in behaviour. For instance; how often does data on usage need to be

  • Review of Current Knowledge


    collected to affect a change in behaviour; how will the collected data be communicated to the consumer; and how will the consumer interact with their data to inform and subsequently adjust their behaviour. Although smart meters have the potential to empower water users to make more informed choices with regard to their usage, and greater environmental stewardship, many consumers are not aware of the scientific foundation behind metering. This lack of awareness and knowledge is also limited in the context of user behaviour, which if better understood could have a profound impact on the effectiveness of such technologies. As a result of the aforementioned issues, this review aims to create a more coherent and integrated understanding of how water metering, through smart meters in particular, can affect domestic demand for water. It also considers the influence of additional factors that serve to shape the effectiveness of metering technologies. It is important to note that the contextual and governance focus of this review, whilst centred on the UK, does draw upon research and information that is more global in scope. The following review is separated into five main sections. The first section provides an overview and definition of smart metering, as well as considering the benefits and challenges of smart meters. The second section focuses on the applications of smart water metering, subsequently highlighting the governance backdrop. The third section outlines smart meter installation, design, and interaction, as well as drawing attention to the influence of human behaviour and socio-demographic variables on water efficiency through smart metering. The fourth section details how smart meters can change water management and usage, with it also outlining the role played by water-saving household appliances. The concluding section seeks to remind the reader of the key findings of the review, in addition to detailing a rationale for why smart meters are necessary and how they can play a key role in encouraging and facilitating greater water efficiency in the UK. 2 Smart metering: definition, benefits, and challenges The water industry and national governments have sought to apply demand management approaches in response to a range of variables, including; supply-side management limitations; the need for more integrated resource planning; as well as compliance with the principles of conservation and sustainability (Gleick, 2000; Dziegielewski, 2003). As a result, metering has emerged as a key component of

  • Review of Current Knowledge


    demand management, with traditional meters being embraced due to a range of benefits over flat-rate tariff pricing (Staddon, 2007). In essence, metering has been driven by a preference to recover costs directly from the consumer, and in doing so apply the user-pays principle which seek to allow the consumer to pay for the actual amount of water used (Staddon, 2010; Ofwat, 2011; Boyle et al., 2013). Despite these benefits, traditional forms of metering have given rise to a number of problems. Firstly, the meters themselves can be difficult to access, which can restrict users from being able to determine their water consumption. Secondly, data from the meter is frequently provided long after the usage itself, thereby preventing informed and responsive changes in behaviour. Lastly, traditional meters also generate recurrent financial costs for water providers, as a meter-reading service must be undertaken in order to gain data on usage (Beal et al., 2014). In response to the limitations of traditional [dumb] meters, smart metering [also defined as intelligent metering within this review] has emerged as a vital tool in the evolution and application of demand management approaches. The development of smart metering technology has mainly occurred in the energy sector, in which smart gas/electricity meters have been more widely