Water companies in Wales to seek bill rises of more than 40%

Two water companies which serve Wales want to put their prices up by more than 40% over the next five years, new figures show. Hafren Dyfrdwy will ask for a 56% rise while Dŵr Cymru will ask for a whopping 43% increase in customers' bills over the next five years.

Water companies will meet with Ofwat this week to discuss what companies can charge between 2025 and 2030. Firms say price increases will help them pay to replace leaking pipes and reduce sewage discharges into rivers and seas.

Consumer Council for Water (CCW) has compiled a list of the figure each water company wants to increase its bills by. Both Welsh providers are in the middle of the range with their proposed bills estimated to rise by more than £200, when adjusted for inflation, over the period. Southern Water is asking for the biggest jump of 91% while South Staffordshire and Cambridge Water asking for the lowest rise of 24%.

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Water companies have been heavily criticised for widespread leaks and the amount of sewage being discharged. Over the previous weekend in Wales sewage alerts were issued for 19 beach and seafront destinations due to pollution from storm sewage or given a poor water classification. Surfers Against Sewage published the alerts on its website on Saturday, May 18. Later that afternoon lifeguards at Barry Island told swimmers to leave the sea due to concerns about water quality. Dŵr Cymru later said the alert was incorrect.

Mike Keil, chief executive of the CCW, said bill rises were "going to come as a massive surprise to people". He said: "People do want to see improvements, they do understand that takes investment, but I think the scale of what’s being proposed here is going to come as a real shock and this is why water companies have double down on their efforts to explain what people are getting for their money."

Lia Moutselou, CCW's senior leader for Welsh policy, added: "These proposed bill rises would heap enormous pressure on households in Wales that are only just about managing or already unable to afford their water bill. It’s seriously concerning that such a small percentage of households feel what is being proposed is affordable, according to the companies’ own research.

"Customers want to see water companies taking better care of the environment. They understand there is a price attached to that but people need to see and experience a difference in the service they and their environment receive.”

James Jesic, Managing Director of Hafren Dyfrdwy, said: “The Hafren Dyfrdwy water and wastewater bill continues to be the lowest in Wales and we remain committed to keeping the bill affordable. During the past few years, we have kept our bill as low as possible and like many businesses we’re seeing rising costs as well as making increased investment to a secure water supply for generations to come.

“We understand that any increase in household bills can be worrying, which is why there is help available to customers who may need it. A range of support packages are available such as the Here2Help Scheme and we have extended our financial support to help 40% more customers this year.”

The list of proposed price hikes (all figures are estimates for average bills but costs will vary depending on a property's rateable value):

  • Southern Water: 91% increase to £915 a year (after inflation) by 2030

  • Thames Water: 59% to £749

  • Hafren Dyfrdwy: 56% to £676

  • Severn Trent: 50% to £657

  • Wessex Water: 50% to £822

  • Yorkshire Water: 46% to £682

  • Dŵr Cymru: 43% to £702

  • United Utilities: 38% to £666

  • South East Water: 35% £330

  • Pennon: 33% to £644

  • Portsmouth Water: 31% to £157

  • SES: 30% to £315

  • Anglian Water: 29% to £682

  • Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water: 26% to £530

  • Affinity Water: 25% to £294

  • South Staffs & Cambridge Water: 24% to £221

A Dwr Cymru spokesman said: “We submitted our plans to Ofwat last year as part of the five-year business planning process. We outlined our proposal to invest £4bn to improve service between 2025 and 2030 to deal with some of the increasing challenges we’re facing in terms of climate change, customer expectations, and increasing environmental obligations.

“Our plans outlined the need to increase customer bills to support these changes. As a not-for-profit company every penny of customers’ bills goes towards maintaining and improving our services and any financial surplus is used to accelerate investment and provide social tariffs for those customers who struggle to make ends meet.

“We will always aim to keep our bills as low as possible but we also have to invest to improve services for today’s customers and also avoid storing up further problems for future generations. Ofwat will give their initial feedback on our plans in June before making a final decision at the end of the year. Only after these decisions are made will we be certain of potential future price rises.”