Southern Water adds consumption data in billing system update

Southern Water is updating its billing system to provide more information to customers to help them reduce water consumption

Southern Water is updating its billing system in a bid to provide more information to customers to help them reduce water consumption.

Speaking at the Forrester Forum for Customer Experience in November, Darren Bentham, chief customer officer at Southern Water, discussed the challenges the water industry faces and how saving water by changing customer behaviour was a top priority.

"The South-East is in an area with not enough water," he told delegates.

While around 40% of people in the region have a meter, he said most of those are dumb meters. "They are in the pavement, so customers cannot easily find out their consumption. The water company has to send out a person to read the meter," said Bentham.

The company has a programme underway to fit 500,000 automatic remote meter (AMR) devices, which transmit their readings to a data collection system onboard a vehicle as it drives along the street. It will also replace 100,000 meters with the new devices as part of its ongoing meter replacement work.

"While it is not a real-time link like [smart] energy, AMR offers a greater level of granularity and provides consumption data back to customers," said Bentham.

Information is presented back to customers on a portal. "They can see how their [water] consumption compares to different household types. We are also doing a billing system upgrade, which will enable us to push more consumption data to customers." 

Southern Water currently bills customers twice a year, but Bentham said it plans to increase billing frequency to help people manage their water consumption and avoid large, unexpected bills.

"The new billing system and the ability to do online account management next year will mean we will have a lot more data about our customers," he said.

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