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In Britain we’re lucky to have high-quality running water on tap whenever we need it. Like everything else in life it costs money, however.
And in these times of rising prices and squeezed incomes, those costs can be a growing burden. So today I’m looking at some ways you may be able to reduce your water bills.
The first thing to say is that water pricing varies across the nations of the UK. In England and Wales, unless you have a water meter, the price you pay will depend on the rateable value of your home.
In Scotland, again unless you have a meter, you will pay a standard water charge with your council tax. Domestic customers in Northern Ireland are fortunate in that they are not required to pay a water bill at all.
Should you get a water meter?
The average water bill for unmetered customers is currently around £400 a year.
If you’re on a low income, that can represent a significant chunk of your money. And unlike gas and electricity, you can’t just shop around for a better deal with a different supplier. You may, though, be able to make significant savings by having a water meter installed.
With a meter, you are of course charged according to how much water you use. A good rule of thumb here is that if your house has more bedrooms than occupants or the same number, it is definitely worth looking into getting a meter installed.
Of course, people vary considerably in how much water they use. So you can use this free calculator from the Consumer Council for Water to check whether you are likely to save money with a meter.
It asks a series of questions about your home and your water usage and reveals the estimated cost you would pay if you had a meter. You can then compare this with what you are paying currently.
The good news is that in England and Wales (though not Scotland) water companies will normally install a water meter free of charge if requested.
Even better, they will usually let you switch back to unmetered within 12 or even 24 months if you find you are paying more with a meter than you were before. You should check with your water company to find out their policy about this.
- If your water company can’t fit a meter for some reason, you can ask for an ‘assessed charge bill’. This is calculated based on the size of your home and how many people live there. If it comes to more than you’re currently paying you can stick with your present billing method, so there is nothing to lose by requesting this.
Saving money with a water meter
Once you have a meter installed, there are lots of ways you can reduce your water usage and save yourself money (and benefit the environment as well!). Here are just a few suggestions…
- Only ever use the washing machine with a full load.
- Have showers rather than baths and keep them reasonably short.
- Do all the washing-up in one go.
- Use a dishwasher, or at least a washing-up bowl.
- Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.
- Don’t use the toilet as a waste bin for paper tissues, etc.
- Fix dripping taps and any other leaks as soon as possible.
Finally, most water companies have a range of gadgets to help save water they will send you for free. Give them a call or check on their website to find out what’s available.
Other ways to cut your water bills
If you are on a low income, all the water companies have schemes designed to help you. These vary a lot and you will need to check with your water company what they offer.
Anglian Water, for example, have what they call LITE and Extra LITE tariffs for people with low disposable incomes who struggle to pay their water bills.
You’ll need to have a meter fitted to qualify for this, but they say you could get a discount of up to 50% on your water and sewerage charges by switching to one of these tariffs.
Nick Daws is a semi-retired freelance writer and editor. He is the author of over 30 non-fiction books, including Start Your Own Home-Based Business and The Internet for Writers. He lives in Burntwood, Staffordshire, where he has been running his personal finance blog at Poundsandsense.com for over seven years.