Water dilemma: Meters can lower your bills, but it's not for everyone

Many homeowners are now wise to the notion of switching energy supplier, but when it comes to water, shopping around for a better deal isn't an option.

Consumers face an average water and sewerage bill of £342 a year after this year's price hikes of an average 4.1 per cent. What's more, things are set to get worse after water companies in England and Wales announced proposed bill increases last month. These proposals are used by Ofwat, the regulator, to determine prices for the next five years, and among the proposals were increases of almost 30 per cent above inflation.

What can consumers do to cut costs? "If you want to save money on your water bill you currently only have one option: to install a water meter," says Will Marples, home utilities expert at comparison site uSwitch.com. As things stand, only 35 per cent of households are using a water meter and could be missing out on savings of up to £125 a year.

With an unmetered home, the water bill is based on the rateable value of the home and does not take into account the water used. The rateable value can vary widely, which means that both heavy and light users will be charged at the same rate. When a water meter is in place, however, the bills are based on actual consumption and give consumers the opportunity to control usage and cut their bills.

Households across the UK can get a water meter free. However, while installation is usually free in England and Wales, north of the border customers are expected to pay. Charges depend on how much work is required. If it is deemed impractical or too expensive – for example, for households with shared pipes in a block of flats – the company may refuse to install a meter.

If this happens, consumers have another alternative: they can apply for what is called an "assessed charge". This means that the water company will bill households based on an estimation of likely water usage. This is determined by a number of variables, such as the number of occupants and type of property, but it will differ from one company to the next so consumers should always check.

Water meters are not for everyone. Experts say that as a rough rule of thumb, if there are more rooms than people in a household a meter should reduce the water bill. However, any savings are reliant on usage and for anyone likely to have high water consumption, a meter could prove more expensive. "If you use a lot of water – perhaps you have a large family and are always running washing machines, dishwashers and baths – then sticking to paying a flat rate would be better for you," says Mr Marples.

There is also a lot to be said for the ease of a flat rate. If the saving from using a water meter is only minimal, some consumers may prefer the security of budgeting for a fixed bill.

Another potential problem with water meters is that any leaks could result in a significantly higher bill than normal. However, consumers are entitled to a leakage allowance, meaning that the water company will not charge for water lost through the leak. Both the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) and uSwitch offer online calculators based on water habits that can assess how much can be saved by installing a meter. Consumers can also contact their water company for a calculation of potential savings. Consumers are allowed to revert back to unmetered billing if they find they are not saving money, but this must be done within 12 months of switching.

However, not all households will have a choice about whether to install a meter. The water company for Folkestone and Dover has been granted water scarcity status, which means it can force customers to install water meters.

Tony Smith, the chief executive of the CCW, says: "We support more metering in areas where the water supply might be under pressure in the future, as long as there is a safety net in place to help protect those who might see their bills go up if they are forced to have a meter."

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

    Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

    Laura Norton: Project Accountant

    £50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?