Alongside rising council tax bills, it’s also been announced that water bills are going up in April. Our money expert explains everything you need to know about the hike.
Households across Britain are worried that their water bills will go up at a time when their finances continue to be squeezed from all directions. Even if you are doing all you can to save water, the price hike will be unwelcome news to millions of families.
Inflation remains high, despite edging down slightly, and family budgets are feeling the strain thanks to high energy bills and rising food prices. On top of that, council tax bills are going up in April, and now it’s been announced that water bills will be too.
CEO of SaveMoneyCutCarbon, Mark Sait told us: “It’s important to be aware of rising bills right now because we tend to have the luxury of ignoring the amount of water and energy we usually waste. For the most part, bills have been steady over the years, meaning we don’t focus on the length of showers we are having or whether we’ve left a tap running.
“However, now, we’re going through what I call bill shock. We’re seeing first-hand how much water we are using and how much it all amounts to. So, by being aware of all of this, it presents a great opportunity for us to rethink how we use water.”
Are water bills going up?
Yes, from April this year, water bills will be going up for all households across England and Wales. According to Water UK(opens in new tab), which represents the major water companies in the UK, “bills are helping to fund the highest level of investment in history into our water and sewage systems”.
Around £70 billion is set to be invested to “eliminate harm” from storm overflows and increase water supplies by building new reservoirs and national water transfer schemes.
But water bills are also rising due to the impact of higher energy costs. Mark Sait of SaveMoneyCutCarbon explains: “Around 2% to 4% of the UK’s energy consumption is used by the water industry. Before the water we use even arrives in our homes, companies have to spend time cleaning it, purifying it and other time-consuming tasks which take up a lot of energy.”
How much are water bills going up by?
Water bills are rising by an average of 7.5% in April, which is the biggest increase in almost 20 years. Water bills also rose last April, but by a smaller 1.7%, or an average annual increase of £7. By contrast, from this April, households will pay an average of £31 more a year for their water bills.
The exact increase will depend on where you live, as founder of household finances app Nous.co, Greg Marsh, explains: “An Anglian customer will see their bills increase by £47 a year compared to someone who gets their energy from Bournemouth Water who will see an increase of just £3.”
If you live in Scotland, water and waste charges are increasing by an average of 5%, or £19 a year, from April. There are no domestic water charges in Northern Ireland.
What’s the average water bill and how is it calculated?
The average water bill from April 2023 will be £448, up from £417 last year. However, the amount you pay for your water bill will depend on where you live, your water company and whether you have a water meter.
If you don’t have a water meter, water companies calculate a set rate depending on your home’s ‘rateable’ value. Before 1990, every property in England and Wales was given a rateable value based on how much the property could be let for.
For those with a water meter, billing is simpler as it’s based on the amount of water you actually use.
On top of this, the regulator Ofwat sets rules that water companies must follow. Creator of energy saving mobile app, HUGO, Ben Dhesi, explains: “While water companies’ bills will vary, they are not allowed to charge what they like. The water and sewerage regulator Ofwat will determine whether the water provider’s prices are enough to deliver their services and whether these prices are fair to the consumer.
“Water and sewerage costs are usually set in five-year periods and will change depending on what Ofwat feels the provider needs to deliver their services, so it’s no surprise that Ofwat has given companies the go-ahead to increase their costs given the current climate.”
What can I do to reduce my water bill?
If you’re worried about rising water bills and you don’t currently have a water meter, money saving expert Martin Lewis is urging families to find out whether they could save money by switching to one.
The Consumer Council for Water has a free water meter calculator which will tell you how much you could potentially save. It’s definitely worth using this if there are more bedrooms in your home than people, or the same number.
If you discover you can save money, contact your water supplier to see if you can apply for a meter. You will often have a two-year trial period during which time you can switch back to your old fixed charges if having a water meter isn’t right for you. You won’t be able to do this in areas where compulsory metering is being introduced, such as customers of Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, Affinity Water and SES Water.
If you already have a water meter, there are several ways to reduce the amount of water you use around the home and therefore cut costs. These include:
- Fixing leaking taps and toilets
- Switching to an aerated shower head which reduces the amount of water you use
- Using the washing machine and dishwasher less often
- Collecting rainwater in a water butt to feed plants or wash your car
- Turning off the tap when you clean your teeth
- Switching to showers rather than baths.
“By replacing the average shower length with a four-minute shower, you could knock £115 off your annual energy bill and an extra £100 off your water bill if you’re on the meter, saving you a total of £215,” says Mark Sait of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.
What should I do if I can’t afford to pay my water bill?
If you’re concerned about paying your water bill, speak to your water company as soon as possible. You might be able to set up a more affordable payment plan, or be put on a water meter to help reduce your bill.
Greg Marsh of Nous.co says: “Together you can work out what you can afford to pay, and you can come to an arrangement about paying back what you owe. It’s against the law for water companies to disconnect or restrict your water supply, but being upfront about any struggles you’re having is always a good idea.”
There are also several schemes that can help with costs, including the WaterSure scheme to help those who use water for family or health-related reasons, as well as those on benefits. The Water Direct scheme also lets you pay your water bill directly from your benefits.
Ben Dhesi from HUGO adds: “Water companies themselves can also provide support for low-income or struggling customers, with some able to reduce bills by as much as 90% in specific cases. Water UK and the Consumer Council for Water have put together the ‘Support on Tap’ campaign to help consumers find out which help they can get from their water company.”