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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Corporate Tax Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

    Relationship Manager

    £500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Test Lead (C#, Java, HTML, SQL) Kingston Finance

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home