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  4. Average water bills per month in the UK: Water bills explained

Average water bills per month in the UK: Water bills explained

Fiona Leake
Fiona Leake
  | Edited by Fiona Leake
Updated 16th December 2020

Water isn’t free and every household in the UK must pay water bills. The average cost of water bills can be up to around £400 a year. It’s important to fully understand your water bills to help save money in the future. Read our guide for everything you need to know about water bills.

What are water bills?

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Water bills are something you pay either monthly, quarterly or yearly, depending on how you choose to spread the cost. If you get your water from the mains, which the vast majority of people in the UK do, then you will have to pay for that water. 

Your water bill also contains a sewage charge for water that’s removed from your property. This includes water drainage and greywater from the sink etc.

How do water bills work?

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Water companies will work out your water bills depending on whether you are metered or unmetered:

  • Metered - you have a water meter installed that measures your water usage. 
  • Unmetered - you pay a set amount for water each year, regardless of how much water you use. (The majority of UK households pay this way).

Properties built before 1990 tend to be unmetered. This means your water bill will be based on either the rateable value (RV) of your property, a flat rate or assessed volume charge. 

  • Rateable value (RV) - before Spring 1990, properties were given a rateable value. The RV is based on how much a property's value at the time (location, bedrooms etc.) Your water bill could be charged as a percentage of this RV. 
  • Flat rate - some water companies charge a flat water rate for all of their customers. 
  • Assessed volume charge - this is based on the size and type of your property and sometimes the number of occupants too. 

If you do have a water meter installed, you’ll be charged for the exact volume of water you use. If unmetered, your bill will be worked out one of the above ways. 

What if my rateable value has changed?

If you know the value of your property has changed considerably since April 1990, then you might want to let your water company know. For example, it might have been several flats and it's now one house, or it’s one house that’s been split into smaller flats.

Rateable values cannot be reassessed but your water company might have a water meter installed. This can work out cheaper if your household has fewer occupants than it does bedrooms. The RV would have been based on the property size, not occupants.

Cost of water bills per month

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If your home is unmetered, you don’t have any control over the cost of your water bill. You can use as much or as little water as you like, it won’t impact your charges. This is because unmetered water bills are based on fixed rates such as the RV of your home. 

On average, water bills cost between £200-£450 a year or £16-£37 per month.

According to Waterwise, the average water usage in cubic meters per year is as follows:

  • One person - 66m³
  • Two people - 110m³
  • Three people - 136m³
  • Four people - 165m³
  • Five people - 182m³
  • Six people - 200m³

Thames Water charges 138.18 pence per cubic meter of water. So, for two people, your water usage could cost around £151.80 a year. 

However, you must remember that wastewater also gets added on top. Thames Water charges 89.63 pence per cubic meter of wastewater. If, as a household of two, you add another 110m³ of wastewater on top, this could add another £99 to your bill. Bringing the total up to £250.80 a year. 

Having said this, it very much depends on where you live. Southern Water’s average water bills are as follows:

One person - £322 per year and £26.80 per month

Two people - £449.40 per year and £37.40 per month

Three people - £576.90 per year and £48 per month

Four people - £668 per year and £55.70 per month

Five people - £740.90 per year and £61.70 per month

Six people - £813.70 per year and £67.80 per month

If you don’t have a water meter, you could be paying much more or less than these figures. This is why many choose to switch to a water meter so they are only paying for the water they use.

Is there VAT on water bills?

Freshwater for domestic use is VAT-free which means that you won’t be paying any VAT on your water bills. 

How to set up your water bill

Water bills are very easy to set up. This is because each area of the UK has one water supplier, so there’s no need to worry about hunting for the cheapest deal. 

This means that you cannot switch water suppliers as you can with energy suppliers. Your water company is dependent upon where you live.

So, here’s how to set up water bills...

Step 1: Find your water supplier

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Only one supplier provides water to each area, so finding out your water supplier is easy.  Follow this link and enter your postcode.

Step 2: Contact your water supplier

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Now that you know who your water supplier is, you can contact them and set up your account. This can be done either online or over the phone. 

To set yourself up as a new customer, you’ll need the following information:

  • Your name and address
  • Date moving
  • New address
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
  • Bank details (for Direct Debit if you wish to pay that way)
  • Meter reading (if you have a water meter)

Step 3: Find out whether you are metered or unmetered

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As mentioned above, there are two main types of water tariff - metered (you pay for your exact water usage) and unmetered (you pay a set amount no matter your usage).

Your payment methods will be affected by the type of tariff - metered tariffs tend to take a reading every six months and send a bill. Whereas, unmetered tariffs can charge monthly, annually or even quarterly.

Whilst unmetered tariffs are much more common, some landlords choose to have a water meter so they aren’t paying for bills when the property is empty.

If you are on a metered tariff, you’ll have to provide a meter reading as soon as you move into a property, just like you would with energy bills.

Step 4: Choose how you want to pay for your water bills

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You have a few different options to choose from when it comes to paying water bills:

  • Direct debit
  • Post
  • Phone
  • Online

You can discuss which one you want with your water supplier when you are setting up your account. 

I need help paying my water bills - what should I do?

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If you are struggling to pay your water bills, the first step is to look at having a water meter installed if you don’t have one already. Sometimes, unmetered tariffs are more expensive as you are paying for more water than you actually use. 

Check if your bills would be cheaper with a water meter by using the water meter calculator on the Consumer Council for Water website. This will tell you how much you are likely to pay with a water meter. 

Read our in-depth guide to find out whether water meters are worth it.

If you find that you are still struggling with water bills, let your supplier know as soon as possible. You might be able to come to an agreement where you spread the cost of your payments over a longer period of time. 

Schemes to help with water bills

Most water companies offer hardship schemes or fund independent charitable trusts to help pay bills.

The Consumer Council for Water website lists all the different hardship schemes. Alternatively, you can ask your water supplier for more information.
If you are on benefits and use a lot of water, you might be eligible for the WaterSure scheme.

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