Households can act now to prevent water bills from adding to money worries

Households struggling to cope with a wave of rising living costs can take action now to dilute the impact of water bills, ahead of an increase in charges for millions of customers this April.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) says only one in four customers are aware water companies have schemes that can reduce the water bills of low-income customers. This is at a time when many households are being impacted by the cost of living crisis – compounded by confirmation of another sharp rise in energy bills.

With Water UK announcing that the average household water and sewerage bill in England and Wales will rise by £7 to £419 from 1 April, CCW is urging customers to soak up its money-saving advice and seek support from their water company if they are worried about their bill.

Average bills do not tell the full story of what many customers will typically experience. Some households could see their bill fall but others may face an increase significantly above the average. That’s because what people are charged depends on a range of factors including who supplies their services, whether they have a water meter and how much water they use – something that has become much harder to predict during the pandemic.

We could get off lucky compared to many areas of the country

Emma Clancy, Chief Executive of CCW, the voice for water consumers, said: “Any increase in water bills will be unwelcome for the millions of households already buckling under the pressure of other rising costs. Covid-19 has also made it even harder for people to anticipate how much water they will use at home – that’s why it’s vital customers take advantage of untapped support.”

“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.”

Jess Cook, who leads the water poverty programme for National Energy Action (NEA), said: “With the rate of inflation rising, a rise in water bills was expected, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take. Following yesterday’s announcement of a 54% rise in the energy price cap, millions of households are worried about how they will cope in just two months’ time, and this is just making the problem harder.”

“We know from previous research that up to 41% of those struggling the most would bathe less, and almost a quarter would cut back on food or personal hygiene products, in order to reduce, or pay for, their water bill. With some water customers being hit harder than others, targeted intervention is vital to stop the otherwise inevitable spiral of people falling into destitution.”

CCW’s research has shown five out of six customers who cannot afford their water bill are not getting the financial support they need.

Water is often overlooked when it comes to saving money but there are many ways to reduce your bill. These savings could help free up precious pounds to cover other rising costs, including energy, food and National Insurance contributions.

There’s plenty of ways to cut down on water usage in the home

CCW’s top three ways to save or seek support with water bills

  • Trial a water meter – typical saving £200. If you’re among the 40 per cent of households who still not do not have a meter, it’s worth checking if you might be better off with one. 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. Our water meter calculator can help you work out if you might save
  • Get smart at the art of saving water and energy – savings vary. Much of the water we use in the home comes from the hot tap. That means if you have a water meter you can double up on water and energy savings too. If every person in a family of four halved their daily shower time from 10 minutes to 5 minutes they could save almost £600 a year (water and energy combined)
  • Reduce your bills with a low-income social tariff – typical saving £148. 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 per cent. CCW has a guide to these tariffs

CCW is also making promising progress in its campaign to end water poverty for 1.5 million customers across England and Wales through strengthening support. The UK and Welsh Governments are currently examining proposals – submitted by CCW last summer – to create a single social tariff that would ensure targeted financial support reaches those that need it most. This would end the ‘postcode lottery’ of help currently provided and ensure the help customers receive is based on their need – not where they live.

Some water companies are also actively working with CCW on a range of pilot schemes to break down existing barriers to help. These changes have the potential to make it easier for customers to access help on everything from making payments and clearing debt, to reducing their water consumption.

In the meantime, water customers can access a wide range of tools and advice on how to save money or access help by visiting their water company website or www.ccwater.org.uk

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