The chief executive of Water Service has written to the noble Lord and gave the following response:
Letter from Mrs Katharine Bryan to Lord Laird dated 9 March 2007.
You recently asked Her Majesty's Government whether householders in Northern Ireland may purchase water-metering equipment and, if so, whether there are any limitations to the circumstances in which they may do so (HL2425). I have been asked to reply, as this issue falls within my responsibility as chief executive of Water Service.
Our intention is to manage the transition to metering in a way that maximises the overall fairness of the charging regime for all customers, with particular focus on affordability. This includes managing the rebalancing effects that result from a metering regime. Allowing customers to carry out their own installation would be like an optional scheme for those who can afford a meter. Pending ministerial approval, it is the intention, however, to move as quickly as possible to the situation where all customers have the option of moving to a metered tariff.
Under the new domestic charging arrangements to be introduced on 1 April 2007, Water Service will be installing water meters on all new-build properties and first-time connections, and will begin to install meters for pensioner households who have formally requested them. There will be no up-front charge to the householder; costs will be recovered through annual metered customer bills. There will be no other opportunity for householders to purchase water-metering equipment.
I trust that you find this satisfactory.