Smart Metering - Your Privacy Matters

We take the protection of your personal data seriously. We’ll explain how we do this below, but if you want to know more, our full Privacy Policy is available to read here.


As our customer, we appreciate the trust you put in us with information about yourself. Our Privacy Promise is designed to give you all the reassurance you need that we are protecting your information properly.

Our privacy promise

We promise that we will:

  • process your personal data fairly and lawfully
  • tell you how we will use your personal data
  • only collect personal data about you when we need it for legitimate purposes, or legal reasons
  • ensure that your personal data is adequate, relevant and not excessive for the purposes for which we collect it
  • not keep your personal data for longer than we need to for those lawful purposes
  • keep your personal data secure
  • ensure we have robust controls in place to prevent unauthorised access to, or use of, your personal data
  • ensure that you know how to exercise your rights in relation to your personal data, and
  • require any third parties who work with us to take similarly appropriate steps to protect your information.
What is personal data?

Water consumption data, together with other data associated with your smart meter (see What personal data is collected? below) is regarded as personal data. Personal data is any data which can be used to identify you, whether on its own or when combined with other data. 


The types of personal data which Northumbrian Water collects about you will include your name and contact details, your property identification number, meter serial number, property information, occupier details and account information.

What is smart metering in water?

If you have a smart water meter installed in your home, it collects and sends data to us showing the flow of water into your property via a wireless network. A smart meter can also be referred to as AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure), enhanced metering or an upgraded meter.


Smart meters are normally fitted externally to your home, in a chamber on the footpath or within the boundary of your home.  If we have replaced an older internal meter or if the type of property doesn’t allow for an external placement, this will be inside your home.

Why is the water industry introducing smart metering?

When you can see how much water you use, you can manage your consumption better, and thus control your bills. Smart meter data allows us to give you an accurate bill, rather than an estimated one, where we have network coverage. This breadth of data will help us to manage long-term resources better, using real water consumption figures.


For example, if we know how much water is delivered to customers’ properties then, by looking at the total volumes put into the network, we can assess how much is being lost through leakage. We can then identify, and fix, those leaks more quickly. This is of clear benefit throughout our supply area, but particularly so in areas of water stress such as the South East. 


We will also be able to share data electronically with suppliers, saving time and costs, which is then reflected in customer bills.

What data do smart meters collect?

Smart water meters collect three main types of data (smart metering data): 

  • Smart meter ID/Radio ID - a unique identification number used to identify individual smart meters
  • Water consumption data – meter readings, timestamps, and minimum water flowrates for the metered properties.
  • Alarm data – smart meters can produce data relating to eight different types of alarms, which will alert us to things such as leaks, burst pipes, back flow, low meter battery and meter tampering. 

Smart metering data will be linked to the individual meter details (water flow/consumption data, meter ID), property information (property type, residency type). This data is collected hourly. 


From your point of view, the key data collected is likely to be the amount of water used.


By analysing consumption, we can spot abnormal usage patterns which helps us to identify a leak within a property and act promptly to help remedy this. It is a priority for us to address burst or leaking network pipes.


Hourly consumption data helps us ensure we can maintain adequate water pressure during periods of peak demand (peak and minimum flow analysis), gives us a better idea where water is going, and therefore helps us identify the root cause of events more quickly, such as changes in pressure or demand for water across the network.


Consumption data will be collected at 15-minute intervals between 1am and 4am. Sometimes referred to as the ‘nightline’, this allows us to accurately detect customer-side leakage when planned usage is at a minimum.

What are the lawful bases for processing smart water meter data?

We can only process your personal data where we have a lawful basis for doing so.


Here are the ones we rely on in relation to smart metering:


Legal obligation

We need to process your data to comply with a legal obligation under the Water Industry Act 1991.


Public task

We need to process your data to allow us to carry out a task in the public interest given our role as a statutory water and sewerage undertaker.


We have legal obligations to supply water, maintain water quality, promote water efficiency, and maintain adequate drainage in line with rules set by our regulators. 


Legitimate interests

We need to process your data for our legitimate interests, or those of a third party, and this requirement is not overridden by your individual rights.


The table below looks at how we use your personal data, and the lawful basis which allows us to process it.


 What we do with your personal data  Lawful basis for processing

 Improve our billing service

 Smart data allows us to provide more

 accurate bills (actual meter reads, not

 estimates) without you having to take

 a meter read, or us sending out meter


 Legal obligation

 Improved network efficiency

 Real consumption figures

 (anonymised) allow us to see how

 much water is being used within the

 network, rather than relying on


 Legal obligation

 Check remotely for any leaks

 This helps you avoid paying for water

 going to waste

 Public task

 Improving asset maintenance

 Smart meter data shows us at once

 where a meter has failed so we can

 repair it promptly. This reduces

 leakage and water waste.

 Public task

 Improving customer services

 Smart meters give you daily, weekly

 and monthly consumption data so you

 can understand your usage better and

 reduce your bills. You will no longer

 have to send us meter readings, which

 saves your time. Looking at your

 consumption data, we can offer you

 tips on water saving customised for

 your own usage.

 Legitimate interests

 Helping us to help customers better

 Daily smart reads help us to manage

 the customer Move In, Move Out

 process better. Electronic meter

 reading saves you, and us, time all

 round. Accurate data means we can

 answer account queries more easily.

 We will also be better placed to

 identify empty properties.

 Legitimate interests

 Helping demand management

 Having real water consumption

 readings (anonymised) helps us

 compare the volume of water used as

 against the amount we put into the

 network. This helps us with managing


 Legitimate interests


 The aggregated, anonymised smart

 meter data helps us analyse the

 performance of our water network and

 plan our supply strategy for the years


 Legitimate interests
Who do we share the data from your smart meter with?

We may share data from your smart meter with the following categories of third parties for the purposes listed below and/or in the following circumstances: 

  • with our third party suppliers and contractors (data processors) who carry out tasks and activities using smart meter data on our behalf, e.g. contractors (who need this information to carry out work for us such as fixing leaks on our network), bill printing service providers.
  • with Debt Collection Agencies and solicitor firms instructed by us to recover customer debt; 
  • with Courts (including the County Court Bulk Centre) and High Court Enforcement Officers; 
  • with third parties making disclosure requests permitted by data protection legislation, e.g. police, local authorities, HMRC, our economic regulator (Ofwat)
  • with regulators who require us to share smart meter data for regulatory investigations, such as the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and Environment Agency (EA) and with the Consumer Council for Water (CCW); 
  • with research organisations for research (on an anonymised, nonpersonal basis);
  • with Housing Associations and Councils; 
  • with our IT partners who host, manage and develop IT solutions for us; 

When we use third party organisations to help provide services to you, we have robust contracts in place with them to ensure they only act in accordance with our instructions.  

Technical security

We are very careful about safeguarding your data and restricting access to the systems in  which it is stored. We have a dedicated security team here who look after the technical security of our systems and you can find more detailed information about this in our full online privacy policy here.

Reviewing our policy

We review our privacy policy at least once a year, or earlier when there are changes to legislation or our processes.

Last update

Version 3: This document was last updated on 22 April 2024.

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