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Why households could face higher charges for using water in the summer

Woman waters plants
Woman waters plants

Households could face higher charges for using water in the summer under new rules by the regulator to encourage lower usage.

Water companies have been encouraged to trial “creative” ways to charge customers by Ofwat, which says the changes could encourage people to cut their usage and their bills.

Proposed trials include seasonal charging to help lower water bills in the winter, reducing bills for homes with water butts and increasing charges to fund messaging about reducing water usage.

Affinity Water, which covers South East England, will be the first to roll out a new trial, affecting 1,500 of its customers, which will see households charged more than double for high water use.

Customers in the trial will be charged only the fixed rate for the first 30m3 annually, then a rate of £1.50/m3 up to 215m3 and £4/m3 for consumption above 245m3.

An average four-person household uses around 165m3 of water a year.

Largest increase in water bills

The Government wants to cut household water use by around a third in coming decades as climate change and growing populations put pressure on supply.

Ofwat has previously noted that premium tariffs for high water use households have “not generally” been found to reduce demand in countries where it has been tried including Australia, Spain and the US.

Its announcement comes as households in England and Wales see the largest increase to their water bills in almost 20 years from April when they rise to an average of £448 a year.

Industry body Water UK said the 7.5 per cent increase will mean customers paying around £1.23 per day on average - an increase of 8p per day or an average £31 more on last year’s charges.

Water companies have been criticised for failing to manage their resources and tackle leaks after customers were placed under hosepipe bans during last year’s drought.

Water companies and the Environment Agency have warned of a return of drought restrictions this year, after a relatively dry start to the year.

“We know that an increasing number of customers are struggling with cost of living pressures,” David Black, the Ofwat chief executive, said. “At the same time, water resources are being impacted by climate change which poses significant long-term challenges to river water health and security of water supply.

“While charging is only one approach, companies need to use every tool at their disposal to support affordability, encourage us all to use water wisely and reduce our impact on the environment.”