Paying more than you should for water?

Many households will now be receiving their second water bill of the year, and the Consumer Council for Water is encouraging customers to take five minutes to make sure that bills for water and sewerage services are not more than they should be.

By carefully reading through your water bill, you may find ways to save. For example, if you have a soakaway which drains rainwater into the ground rather than into the public sewerage system, you can apply to your local sewerage company to have surface water drainage charges removed. This could typically save around £30 each year. If you have a septic tank you should not be paying sewerage charges.

It may also be worth taking time to visit the Consumer Council for Water’s website (www.ccwater.org.uk) to see if you could save money by having a water meter fitted. The water meter bill calculator on the website can help you work out how much you might pay on a metered charge.

Water companies install meters for free and you can usually switch back to the unmetered charge anytime within the first 12 months if you are unhappy with the change. If a meter cannot be fitted, water companies should offer an alternative unmeasured tariff which may be lower than the current bill. A single person living alone in a property with an average rateable value might save around £100 a year by having a meter installed.

If you already have a meter, take a look around your home to work out ways to trim your bill by using water wisely. Fixing dripping taps, installing a water saving device in toilets or more water efficient appliances, taking showers rather than baths and collecting rainwater for use in the garden are all great ways to be more water efficient.

Around a quarter of a household’s energy bill comes from heating water for baths or showers, or for washing clothes or dishes.  By reducing water wastage, families should also see a reduction in energy bills.

Special tariffs and assistance schemes may also be available for customers struggling to pay. One such scheme which applies across England is WaterSure. WaterSure caps a household’s charges at the average metered bill for their area so vulnerable households can use the water they need without having to worry about a high bill.

Customers receiving income related benefits who have a meter and either three or more dependant children, or a medical condition that means they need to use more water, are eligible for help under the WaterSure scheme. A low income household of five with a water meter could be spending around £700 per year on water. By applying for the WaterSure scheme they might be able to cut this bill in half.

Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “About a third of customers admit to us that they are unlikely to read the information contained in their water bills. Water companies have a duty to make sure that the bills they send out are accurate and that charges are clearly explained, but customers can help themselves by looking in more detail at the information in their bills too.

“Customers should not pay any more than they need to for their water or sewerage services. By taking a few minutes to consider our money saving tips and to check their bills, customers can avoid losing out, and in some cases could make real savings.”

For more information on ways to save money on water bills and the water meter bill calculator visit www.ccwater.org.uk.

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