Cost of living: How to save money on your water bill

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There are many ways to save money on your water bill, including switching to a metered bill and making small changes to your behaviour. (Getty Images)
There are many ways to save money on your water bill, including switching to a metered bill and making small changes to your behaviour. (Getty Images)

With many households struggling during the cost-of-living crisis, Brits are looking for better ways to manage their finances, including spending less money on their water bill.

Water has been termed the "forgotten utility" by MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis due to consumers' limited power to bring costs down.

It isn't possible to switch between providers, meaning money-saving opportunities are more difficult to access than for gas and electricity.

As a result, Lewis says many people don't realise the savings they could make by using less water.

Yahoo News UK explain how different water bills work and look at the ways you could save money on water.

How do water bills work in England and Wales?

There are two different kinds of water bills in England and Wales - metered and unmetered.

Customers who have an unmetered bill are charged based on the rental value of their property, combined with a fixed amount set by the provider which covers things like billing and customer service costs.

The amount that a household gets charged has nothing to do with the amount of water it uses.

Instead, it's based on how much the property was worth in 1990.

The system means that households who use a lot of water could be paying under the odds.

Houses that were built after 1990 are charged a metered bill instead, and so get charged depending on how much water they actually use.

This type of bill makes most sense for people who live alone and don't use as much water as a household with several people.

Normally, the cost includes sewerage, as well as water.

How do water bills work in other parts of the UK?

In Scotland, consumers are charged for water and sewerage by local authorities, who collect these bills on behalf of Scottish Water together with council tax.

The amount that households pay is based on their council tax band, with discounts and exemptions available for people in certain circumstances, such as those who earn lower incomes and people who receive certain benefits.

Scottish Water currently serves 2.6 million households and supplies 1.5 billion litres of water.

Meanwhile, there are no domestic water charges in Northern Ireland, with both the DUP and Sinn Fein opposing any plans to introduce them.

How much is the average water bill?

According to the industry researcher Discover Water, the average water bill for 2022/23 will be £419. This includes £200 for water and £219 for sewerage.

Sewerage tends to cost more because of the complicated process of pumping treated wastewater back into the rivers and sea.

For 2021/22, the average bill for water and sewerage was £410.

Why might your water bills increase?

Water is often the
Water is often the "forgotten utility" as people don't realise how much they could save. (Getty Images)

Water bill costs change for many reasons.

For example, in 2022, several water companies said they were increasing their prices in order to improve infrastructure and increase investment into fighting climate change.

Read more: The chart that shows how bad your sick pay really is

Ofwat says that it is challenging providers to do more to help customers who are struggling.

David Black, interim chief executive, said: “Many households are worried about their bills, and we expect water companies to play their part in supporting customers.

"Our research shows that only 15% of customers know about the financial help available to them, and just 3% are actually getting financial support from their water company.

“Offering a helping hand to those who need it must be a top priority for water companies."

Will using a water meter help me save money?

Water meters make sense for some households. (Getty Images)
Water meters make sense for some households. (Getty Images)

Switching to a metered bill will almost certainly help someone living on their own to save money, according to MoneySavingExpert.com.

However, it all depends on how many people you live with.

Martin Lewis says that if you have fewer people, it generally makes sense to use a meter. "The fewer people, the less is used – and the lower the bill," Lewis said.

Overall, the best way to find out how much you could save is to speak to your water company.

Some companies have an online calculator to help you see how much your bill could reduce with a meter.

Consumer Council, an independent representative of water consumers in England and Wales, also has a free calculator if you're unsure which company to use.

It's worth taking into account that getting a water meter installed is free in England and Wales, but not in Scotland where it costs £300 to have one fitted.

Tips for saving on water bills if you have a water meter

Making sure the tap isn't running when brushing your teeth is an easy way to save water. (Getty Images)
Making sure the tap isn't running when brushing your teeth is an easy way to save water. (Getty Images)

If you already have a water meter, or you're thinking of getting one, a number of freebies are available to help you save water, depending on which company you're with.

The website Save Water Save Money has free gadgets, such as shower heads worth £20 – which could save you £30/yr on heating bills alone – or tap inserts worth £5.

In addition, there are nine tips that Ofwat recommends for saving water:

1. Use a bowl in the sink when washing fruit and vegetables, rather than running them under the tap.

When you're finished, it can be used to water your plants.

2. Turn off the tap when you're brushing your teeth.

Leaving a tap running could use up to nine litres of water a minute.

3. Fill a jug of water and keep it in the fridge for when you want a cool drink.

This means you won't waste water by letting the tap run cold before filling up their glass

4. Wait until you have a full load before using your washing machine or your dishwasher.

Washing machines use around 19 gallons of water per load, which, so for an average household that runs between 5 - 6 loads per week, is equivalent to 5,605 gallons of water per year.

5. Take a shower instead of a bath when possible.

A five-minute shower uses about 40 litres of water - around half the amount used in a bath.

6. Use a water-saving device in your toilet cistern.

You could save between one and three litres each time you flush the toilet, depending on the size of your cistern.

7. Water your plants with a watering can, instead of a sprinkler or a hosepipe.

Garden sprinklers and hosepipes left running can use between 500 and 1,000 litres of water per hour.

8. Check your property regularly for leaks on your internal plumbing.

Leaks from pipes, plumbing fixtures and fittings are a major source of water waste.

9. Installing a water butt to collect rainwater off your roof.

Water butts usually store about 200 litres of water. As well as being better for watering your plants, using rainwater in the garden reduces the amount of treated water you use.

What other support is available?

Some water companies offer hardship schemes, such as grants and flexible payments, to help people pay their bills.

Speaking to your current provider will help you find out which schemes are available and whether you are eligible to apply for one.

Alternatively, people on benefits who use a lot of water can apply for WaterSure, national scheme for helping families save money. Customers of Welsh Water have to apply for the scheme via WaterSure Wales.

Since water bills are collected along with council tax in Scotland, people struggling to pay their bills should check if they're eligible for a council tax reduction.

Watch: Martin lewis urges people to compare energy prices

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