Your water bill is worked out in one of two ways:

  • using readings from a water meter to work out how much water you’ve used.
  • using the rateable value of your property – this doesn’t involve measuring how much water you have used.

Water meters

If you have a water meter, you only pay for the water you use – plus a standing charge which covers other costs not linked to your usage.

Since 1990, all new houses have had to have a water meter. Most businesses and other commercial properties are also metered.

If you are thinking about having a water meter, use our water meter calculator to see if you might be able to save money.

If you want to have a meter, you will usually have up to two years to try it and see if it’s right for you. If you’re unhappy you can choose to return to the previous way your bill was worked out.

In areas of the country where water is more limited, water companies have the right to install a meter in someone’s home without needing their permission. This is to encourage people to think more about how they can save water.  If you live in one of these areas, you do not have the choice to try out a meter for two years.

Rateable value

You don’t have to have a water meter if:

  • Your property was built before April 1990 and is not currently metered, AND
  • You don’t live in some areas of southern England where homes must have a water meter fitted

If you don’t have a meter, your bill will be worked out using something called the rateable value of your home. This old system was used prior to 1990 to work out how much local councils would charge households for the services they provided.

The rateable value was worked out using different things including where you live and the size of your property.

Your water company or retailer can let you know the rateable value they are using to calculate your bill, but they cannot alter or replace it.

There is no process for appealing against a rateable value as they stopped being used as a basis for council charges in 1990. The only other way to getting your water bill worked out is to have a water meter.

Additional support

If you have received a high water bill and are unsure of the reasons why, take a look at our factsheet my water bill is unexpectedly high for further help and advice.

If you are struggling financially and need extra support, read our what if I can’t afford to pay my bill factsheet.