Cut Your Water BillPosted on: 04 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Stop throwing cash down the drain with our money saving and debt busting advice for paying water bills.
The water industry regulator Ofwat has announced that bills are set to rise this year by an average of 5.8 per cent, bringing the average water and sewerage bill up to £330 a year.
At a time when so many household bills are rising some customers may be looking for ways to make every penny count. There are ways water customers may save money, either by switching to a meter, applying for a special tariff, or making sure they are not being charged for services they don't receive, says the Consumer Council for Water.
Taking five minutes to consider these money saving tips could save some customers quite a significant amount, more than the recent rises have added to their bills.
In addition, customers who may be struggling to pay should be aware that support is available when it comes to paying for water and sewerage charges.
Get A Meter
The water watchdog suggests that the first thing customers can do is check whether they would save money by having a meter installed. People living alone or those who currently pay higher than average charges are most likely to benefit. A single person living alone in a property with an average rateable value could save around £100 by having a meter installed.
Companies install meters for free and if customers see their bills rise they are able to switch back to their old charges within 12 months.
A water meter calculator is available on the Consumer Council for Water's website, where customers can work out if installing a meter could save them money.
Reduce Water Wastage
Customers who already have a meter can cut their bill by taking simple steps to avoid wasting water they are paying for. Fixing dripping taps, installing a water saving device in toilets, taking showers rather than baths and collecting rainwater for use in the garden are all great ways to be water efficient. A household paying the average metered bill who reduce water waste by ten per cent could save around £25 per year on their water bill.
Check Your Bill
Customers may also be able to save money by taking a closer look at their water bills.
Those customers who have a septic tank should not be paying any sewerage charges.
Surface drainage charges, which are typically around £30 a year, should not apply to customers with their own soakaway, where rainwater does not drain into the public sewerage system.
Customers in either of these situations should contact their local water company to have the charges removed or it could mean, quite literally, money going down the drain.
WaterSure & Water Direct
WaterSure is another money saving option for customers with a water meter and on income based benefits such as Income Support, Income based Jobseekers allowance, Pension Credit, Working Tax Credit, Housing or Council Tax benefits, and have either a large family - three or more children in full time education under the age of 19 - or a medical condition which requires them to use more water.
The programme caps a household's water bill at the average rate for their area, allowing metered households to use the extra water they need without having to worry about a high bill. A low income household of five with a water meter could be spending as much as £600 to £700 per year on water. Customers who meet the criteria for WaterSure could end up saving hundreds of pounds over a year by signing up and having their bill capped.
Water Direct is another national programme which may be available to customers in receipt of Income Support, income-based Job Seekers' Allowance or Pension Credit, who are in arrears with their water services charges.
The payments can be taken directly from these benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and paid to the water company. Current charges are paid, together with a contribution towards the debt. The advantage of this method is that the payments are made automatically, helping customers to manage finances and budget effectively.
A Consumer Council for Water consumer survey found that just 12 per cent of customers are aware of WaterSure and, while anyone in debt and on specified benefits can apply for payments to go directly to their water provider through Water Direct, it is not always taken up.
Contact Your Water Company
Water companies have quick and efficient procedures to deal with customers who refuse to pay which may involve legal action. This is entirely in their right, but customers who genuinely are unable to pay their bill need to notify the water company as soon as they find themselves faced with a bill they can't pay. Making the company aware of their situation ensures they get the support they need.
Customers struggling to pay water charges have a range of options available. Water companies may be able to offer more flexible payment options which allow customers to pay charges in a way that suits their circumstances better, such as a weekly or monthly payment plan.
Many water companies have set up trusts or other schemes which might help eligible customers clear some outstanding debt. Individual water companies have different application procedures, and there are different criteria which customers must meet to be eligible for these schemes. Customers are encouraged to contact their local water company to find out more.
Consumer Council for Water staff can also take time to explain the options available and point them in the right direction during what can be a stressful time. They are there to make sure customers get the help they are entitled to, and there is no charge for contacting them.
For more information on water and sewerage services, a list of water company trust funds and restart schemes, money saving advice and a water meter charge calculator, you can visit the Consumer Council for Water website at www.ccwater.org.uk or phone 0845 039 2873.
Do you have any water or money saving tips? You can share them in the 50connect forum.
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