Like many homes, my water supply is metered, and I am billed according to the amount I use. Each unit on the meter corresponds to 1 m3, or 1 kilolitre.
The cubic metre isn’t used for many everyday transactions, but for the metering of water usage it is a very convenient unit for visualising the large amounts used over several months.
However, in their billing information, Severn Trent Water see the need to convert water usage in cubic metres into other “units”, such as “cups of tea” and “showers”. They even tell me how much I use per day in pints (presumably not dry pints, or US pints, which are different from the UK pints still used for draft beer).
Severn Trent struggle to find an everyday unit to express 0.12 m3
However, even amongst all the conversions, Severn Trent Water somehow manage to not mention litres anywhere on my bill. Yet, if an everyday unit is wanted, then the litre ought to be the obvious one. One litre being equal to 1 dm3, which is exactly 1⁄1000 of one cubic metre.
So in the example above, 0.12 m3 = 120 litres. Simple.
For comparison purposes too, nothing could be handier than the fact that bottled drinking water comes in sizes that are multiples of one litre. Has drinking water ever been sold in pints?
Conversely, I have no idea how to visualise the amount of water in “one shower”, and the amount of water I use in “one cup of tea” depends on which cup I use. So, if it is felt necessary to show how much one cubic metre is in smaller everyday units, why not just use the litre?
If “dumming down” is the practice of making things simpler for a perceived target audience, could these meaningless extra units in my water bill be a case of “dumbing up”?
Readers are invited to compare their experiences of billing information from other water companies.