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Already stretched brits now face water bill misery

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Householders in England and Wales face more money misery as some water bills will rise by as much as 10%.

Average water and sewerage bills in England and Wales are forecast to rise 1.7% to £419 in April, adding £7 to annual bills, according to industry body Water UK.

While this may sound trivial, particularly in light of yesterday’s near £700 energy bill hike, the average figure masks regional variations, so some people will see their bills fall while others will see theirs soar.

As an example, forecasts for South West Water customers reveal annual average water and sewerage bills will fall 6.2%, from £503 to £472, saving them £31.

On the flip side, customers of Northumbrian Water are forecast to see their average combined water bill soar 10.8%, taking payments from £330 to £365 – a £36 increase (figure rounded).

The exact amount you’ll pay will depend on whether you have a water meter, and how much water you use. But the table below shows the forecast for other combined water and sewerage companies:

Source: Ofwat and CCW

Water UK said the forecast levels are well below inflation (4.8% CPIH) and they’re lower in real terms than they were a decade ago, having fallen in the last two years.

Further, customers are paying just over £1 a day, which means a 2p per day rise on last year’s charges, it said.

Water bill help

A record 1.1 million customers are already receiving help with their water bills, and this figure is likely to rise to 1.4 million by 2025. Since the onset of the covid pandemic, 100,000 customers have been given payment breaks.

Water UK said companies are already helping to reduce bills for customers under a certain income, capping bills and offering charitable funds to those who are struggling.

But research from water regulator Ofwat found that just 15% of customers knew about the financial help available to them, with just 3% actually getting support from their water company.

David Black, Ofwat interim chief executive, said: “Those who are struggling need to know there is help available.  Offering a helping hand to those who need it must be a top priority for water companies and we want to see them being proactive, creative and supportive for their customers. If customers are worried, they should talk to their water company, affordability charities, or CCW.”

Emma Clancy, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), said: “Some households could potentially save hundreds of pounds by switching to a water meter, while others on a low income may be eligible for water companies’ wide range of assistance schemes. Simple steps to reduce your hot water use could also take some of the heat out of rising energy costs.”

CCW lists these three tips to help:

  • Trial a water meter (typical £200 saving): Not everyone will save with a meter but most water companies will give you two years to trial one and switch back if you’re unhappy. See CCW’s water meter calculator see if you can save.
  • Double up on water and energy savings (£600 a year saving): Much of the water we use in the home comes from the hot tap. If every person in a family of four halved their daily shower time from 10 minutes to five minutes they could save almost £600 a year (water and energy combined).
  • Consider a low-income social tariff (typical £148 saving): All water companies offer reduced tariffs to low-income customers. Eligibility and the level of support varies from company to company but, in some cases, bills can be cut by as much as 90%.

Support is also available through the Priority Services Register, which gives help to people with sight, hearing, or mobility difficulties, to parents with babies under 12 months old, and WaterSure scheme, which enables water companies to cap bills for low-income customers who use a lot of water for essential family or health reasons.