The problem of long unread water meters and how to fix it

Water retailers like Wave use your meter reads to help make your water bills more accurate. But what happens if you’re one of over 200,000 businesses across the UK with a long unread meter (LUM), and what can you do about it?

Water meters read less than every 12 months class as long unread meters (LUM) and since the opening of the water market they’ve been an issue for retailers, wholesalers and customers.

Why are LUMs such a problem?

Long unread meters are a high priority issue for business water retailers like us as we recognise that they can lead to issues with incorrect billing and problems such as leaks being missed, all of which impacts our customers.

So why doesn’t someone just read the meter? Unfortunately, it’s often not as simple as that and in many instances water meters have been left unread for genuine reasons. In some cases, they cannot be located, are faulty or are in vacant properties. Some meters may be inaccessible or in hazardous areas that neither the property owner nor the meter reader can safely access. The impact of Coronavirus should also not be underestimated.

The MOSL Annual Market Performance Report found that while the number of external LUMs has remained at a similar number since January 2020, internal LUMs have doubled to over 110,000 in the period up to April 2021. Many businesses were forced to close during this time and this has had a considerable impact on meter readings as access to buildings during the lockdown periods wasn’t possible.

Steps for dealing with the long unread meter problem

There is no single solution to address all long unread meters, as every premise and every customer is different. At Wave we’re taking a proactive approach and we’d love our customers to do the same. Claire Stanness, Metering Manager, outlines our approach and the steps which are already being considered to cut the number of LUMs. These steps include:

Analysing skip codes

When a meter reader is unable to take a reading, they log a skip code. This should explain the reason the reading was not possible. Analysing these codes helps to identify trends and uncover the “hard to read” meters and Wave is already using this information. For example, whenever we find “faulty water meter” skip code we take action to fix the issue for that customer as quickly as possible.

Improving customer communication

For many business owners, reading their water meter is likely to be a low priority. Some have never even seen it. Ask yourself, do you know where your business’ water meter is located? Customers can easily read their own meters, as they would with an electricity or gas meterand this can save time waiting for a professional meter reader. Wave is proactively getting in touch with customers with LUMs to ask what is preventing them from submitting a reading and whether they need further support.

Building strong retailer-wholesaler relationships

One of the most effective ways of dealing with LUMs and many other issues is working collaboratively with the water wholesalers. We engage in regular communication with wholesalers for information about water meter locations, faults on meters and who is responsible for the maintenance or replacement of meters to ensure any actions our customers need are quickly carried out.

Harnessing the latest technology

We regularly install automatic meter readers (AMRs) for our customers, and they do exactly what you’d expect, provide regular meter reads without you needing to do anything at all. Automatic meter readers aren’t right for every site, but we can work with you to find the best solution. We have a range of business water smart meter readers available so it’s always worth a discussion with our team.

Working together to minimise long unread meter numbers

We’re dedicated to reducing the number of long unread water meters, but we can only do that with your support and the commitment of wholesalers and the regulators. So take the first step. If you think your business’ water meter hasn’t been read for 12 months or more, speak to us today. Our team can answer any queries, help you locate your meter and discuss any initiatives that could support your business.