Household water bills across England and Wales rose by an average of £7 a year last month, with average annual bills now totalling £419 (opens in new tab), according to the Consumer Council for Water (CCW).
However, depending on where you live some households may pay more, or less. According to the water regulator Ofwat (opens in new tab), customers with Northumbrian Water for example saw their average annual water and sewerage bills (opens in new tab) rise by over 10%, to £365 a year, while customers with South West Water saw a drop of over 6%, with average annual bills of £472.
To help you understand the costs we explain how water bills are calculated and how to reduce yours.
How are your water bills calculated?
When it comes to the way you pay for water, you can be billed in two ways.
One is by paying a fixed price each year - known as ‘rateable’ billing. This is when bills are based on both the size of your home and where you live.
The other way is through a water meter, which means you only pay for the water you use.
Bills can also include a sewerage charge, which covers the cost of maintaining sewer pipes and getting rid of sewage. The average £419 water bill typically includes £200 for water costs (opens in new tab), and £219 for sewerage (opens in new tab).
Unlike other utility suppliers, you can't move providers to get a better deal, but you can switch the way you are billed to get a better price.
Is a water meter cheaper?
If you have more bedrooms than the number of people living in your home, or the same number, you may be able to save switching to a water meter.
To find out how much you could save, plug your details into CCW's free water meter calculator (opens in new tab) which helps you estimate your annual water use, and decide whether you could be better off switching to a meter.
Whether you can save may depend on thinsg like how many showers you take, your diswasher usage and your current rates.
If you are one of the 40% of households (opens in new tab) currently on the ‘water rates’ system, you can ask your water supplier to install a meter for free.
Can you switch from a meter if bills cost more?
If you ask your supplier for a water meter, but then find you’re paying more this way, you can ask to go back on your old billing system.
Depending on your supplier, you usually need to do this within one to two years of having the meter fitted. However if you later decide to try a water meter for a second time, you can’t switch back again.
Switching back means your meter won’t be used for your bills, but it’s unlikely to be taken away.
Easy ways to cut water bills
If you're on a meter, then reducing your water usage will keep costs low - and of course, using less water also helps the environment. Here are some top tips to help you reduce your water usage:
- Water saving freebies: You can get free water saving devices including shower heads and tap inserts, that help regulate the water flow. Northumbrian Water, for example, offer free shower timers, tap inserts and plugs to customers or you can put your postcode into the Save Water Save Money website to see what is available in your area.
- Change your shower head: Replacing an old shower head with a water efficient one can save the average family £91 a year, based on both heating and water bills.
- Turn off taps: Brushing your teeth under a running tap wastes over five litres of water a minute. And fix leaky taps. A dripping tap wastes over 5,300 litres of water a year.
- Don’t over fill the kettle: Most kettles have ‘cup’ markings, so you can see how much water you need rather than filling the kettle every time. Overfilling wastes water and energy. Boiling what you need saves £6 a year.
- Have a quick shower: Shave one minute off shower time every day and a family of four can save £44 a year on water bills.
- Fill the dishwasher: Wait until the washing machine and dishwasher are full before switching on and use the ‘eco’ cycle for the most energy efficient setting, to save on water and energy bills.
Struggling to pay your water bills?
If you are worried about paying your bills, speak to your water company.
Depending on your situation, they may be able to offer payment breaks, help with grants or repayments plans (opens in new tab).
If you live in England and Wales, you can find who your water supplier is by entering your postcode here (opens in new tab). If you live in Scotland you should contact Scottish Water (opens in new tab) and Northern Ireland Water (opens in new tab) if you live in Northern Ireland.
Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound. Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!