Water bills: big rise in AprilWater bills in England and Wales set for big rise

22 February 2006

Water bills across England and Wales are to rise by 5.5 per cent - three times the rate of inflation - from April this year.

Water regulator Ofwat has allowed the industry to raise the average water and sewerage bill by GBP 15, from GBP 279 to GBP 294.Ofwat said that the inflation-busting hikes were needed to fund projects such as improving pipes and reducing flooding from sewers. But the increase will hit households at a particularly bad time, as energy prices are also rising.The customer advocate, the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), warned that further rises are due in the next three years, and said that some households would struggle to pay.

South West Water's is largest hike

The amount of the water bill increase will vary depending on where you live. South West Water, which already charges the most among the big ten water and sewerage companies, will also bring in the biggest rise: 9.4 per cent. This adds GBP 39 to the average customer's bill, but South West is helping to offset this rise in the first year with a one-off GBP 20 payment to each household.Anglian Water customers will see the lowest hike. The average bill will rise by GBP 7 - from GBP 309 to GBP 316 - in line with inflation. You can check how the price rises will affect you by visiting the Ofwat website.Ofwat's Director General of Water Services, Philip Fletcher, said: 'I realise that these bill increases will not be welcome, but I want to reassure customers that bills are going up by no more than is necessary. Price rises are unavoidable because of rising costs and the new challenges facing water companies.'

'Some will struggle to pay'

CCW Chair, Dame Yve Buckland, said: 'Some consumers will struggle to pay their water bills, surrounded as they are by other rises for energy, council tax and other services. However, there are a limited number of options to sugar the pill.' She advises consumers in difficulty to contact their water company, which may be able to offer a flexible payment plan or a 'vulnerable customer' tariff.Ofwat says that some unmetered customers - especially those who don't use a lot of water but live in a high-value home - would save money by switching to a meter. Customers are being advised to save water through various measures, such as fixing dripping taps. However, the companies are losing 2.5 million litres a day in leakage from water pipes, and some companies, including Thames Water and United Utilities, have failed to meet leakage targets set by Ofwat.