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How to reduce your water bills and get help if you can’t pay

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

Want to save money on your water bill? Of course you do! Read our guide to find out how to reduce your water bills and save money. Many people believe that you can’t save on water bills but there are many different tips and tricks to help cut down your bills.

How is my water bill calculated?

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Each area in the UK is covered by one water supplier only. Find out who your water supplier is here.

This means that you can’t switch suppliers for a better deal like you can with energy suppliers.

However, you can decide how your water bill is calculated which can impact the cost. 

Your water bill is calculated in one of the following ways:

  • Unmetered - if you don’t have a water meter you’ll be on a standard tariff. This is a fixed amount that’s a percentage of the Rateable Value (RV) of your home. This set annual amount doesn’t change, no matter how much water you use.
  • Metered - properties built after 1990 have a water meter. This measures your water usage in cubic meters. You only pay for the water you use with a meter. It works just like energy bills.

For more information on how water bills are calculated, take a look at our explanation guide.

How much do water bills cost?

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The average fixed unmetered water bill costs around £400 a year per household. You'll pay the same amount no matter how much or little water you use. However, if you have a water meter installed, you have control over your water bill and can save money by using less water.

This is why some households might find that switching to a water meter might make their bills cheaper. If you don’t use much water, you could be paying more on a fixed unmetered tariff. 

Should I switch to a water meter?

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If you live in a property that has more bedrooms than people living there, you might find that a water meter could reduce your water bills.

This is because unmetered water bills are based on the Rateable Value (RV) of your property. If you have a five-bedroom property, you’ll be paying a fixed amount each year, based on the size of your house. 

However, you might only have two people living in your five-bedroom house but you’re still paying as though five people are living there!

If this is the case, installing a water meter will ensure that you’re only paying for the water you use. This will likely be much cheaper than your current fixed rate.

You can find out how much money you might save by using the water meter calculator on the Consumer Council for Water website. 

How much you can save with a water meter depends on your usage but the average household can save around £50-100 a year.

Having said this, if you have a large family and use a lot of water, it’s likely that you’ll end up paying more with a water meter. So, make sure you use the calculator and talk to your water supplier before switching. 

Read our detailed guide on water meters for more information.

9 Ways to reduce your water bill

If you have a water meter or are planning to switch to one, reducing your water usage can help save on your water bill. If you don’t have a water meter, you’ll pay the same amount, regardless of how much water you use. So, reducing your water usage without a water meter won’t impact your bill at all. 

However, some of the following tips can still help you to save money, whether you have a water meter or not. 

1. You could be due a sewerage rebate

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There are two charges on your water bill:

  1. The water you use.
  2. The wastewater you produce.

It’s assumed that the amount of water you use produces almost the same amount in sewerage. Usually, 90-95% of the water you use goes back as wastewater. 

However, this isn’t the same for everyone and you can get a refund if you’ve been overcharged for sewerage.

If any of the following applies to you, you should contact your water supplier to discuss a sewerage rebate:

  • You have a soakaway - this is an underground pit that collects water. Water companies offer rebates when surface rainwater goes into a soakaway or river, not a mains sewer. Call or go online to request a rebate.
  • You have a pond or swimming pool - if you use a lot of water from your outside tap, you could be due a refund. You’ll have to prove that the water you use doesn’t go down the drain. You shouldn’t have to pay the sewerage charge on large volumes of water that’s used to fill ponds etc because it isn’t wastewater. 
  • You have a cesspit or septic tank - if you have no connection to the mains sewer then you shouldn’t pay sewerage charges as you’ll have a cesspit or septic tank instead.

If you’re unsure whether you’re due a sewerage rebate or not, contact your supplier.

2. Get FREE water-saving goodies

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Households across the UK could be entitled to FREE water-saving gadgets thanks to the company Save Water Save Money.

You’ll only get one item per property and what you get depends on your area. However, some of the water-saving gadgets on offer include:

  • Water-efficient shower heads - regulate water usage.
  • Tap inserts - regulate water flow from taps.
  • Garden hose nozzles - regulate water flow. 
  • Toilet cistern bags - helps each flush of the toilet use less water.

To find out if you can get these freebies, simply head over to the Save Water Save Money website and enter your postcode. Once you enter your details you’ll get your freebie within 28 days.

So, it’s worth seeing if you can get one for free!

3. Put an end to leaks

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Not only are leaking taps annoying but they can also be costing you a lot of money as they use up to 5,500 litres of water a year! 

If you fix your leaky taps you could be saving money on your bill, if you are on a water meter.

4. Only run dishwashers and washing machines when full

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If you only put a few clothes in the washing machine or a couple of dishes in the dishwasher and then run them, you’re wasting water, energy and money. 

Only run your appliances when full to minimise how much you use them. This will save water (if you have a meter). Your energy bills will also be cheaper as the water won’t need to be heated as much.

5. Store cold water in the fridge 

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When we run the tap to get it cold enough for a drink of water, so much wasted water is going down the drain. If you’re on a water meter, you could save so much money by using a water jug and storing it in the fridge.

This way, you have fresh, cold water easily to hand, without having to waste a drop of water.

6. Don’t use the toilet as a bin!

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We’ve all been guilty of being lazy and throwing tissues, face wipes and more down the toilet instead of in the bin. 

This is not only bad for the environment but also wastes a lot of water every time you unnecessarily flush the toilet. Every toilet flush uses between 7 and 9 litres of water. 

All of those unnecessary flushes waste water and money!

7. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth

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You don’t need the tap running when you are cleaning your teeth - turn it off!

If five people brush their teeth twice a day and leave the tap on each time, you could be wasting up to 20 litres of water a day.

If you have a water meter, something as small and simple as turning off the tap can save you money on water bills.

8. Take short showers and don’t bath

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Instead of having a bath every day, have a shower instead! Baths use around 80 litres of water whilst showers only use around 35 litres. 

Make showers daily and baths an occasional treat - you’ll save on your water bill if you’re on a meter. You’ll also save on energy bills as less water will need to be heated for a shower.

9. Avoid garden hoses

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Using a hose to water your garden can use up to 10 litres of water a minute. Garden plants don’t need water every day. When you do water, use a watering can. 

How to get help if you're struggling to pay your water bills

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If you’re struggling to pay your water bill each month or have fallen into debt to your supplier, don’t panic. 

Call your water supplier as soon as possible to discuss your situation. All water companies will offer some form of help, this support could include:

  • Payment holiday - a break from paying your water bills to help get your finances in order.
  • Cheaper plan - your supplier might accommodate a drop in finances by offering a cheaper payment plan.
  • Stop enforcing late payments - if you’re struggling to pay, your supplier might agree to stop chasing the debt and prevent any County Court Judgements (CCJ). 
  • Hardship schemes - your supplier might help to pay your bill. The Consumer Council for Water website lists all the different hardship schemes.

Repayment plans for water bills

All water companies offer a repayment plan if you contact them and let them know that you’re struggling to pay your bills. 

An example of a repayment plan is that for every £1 you pay, the water company will also pay £1 towards your bill.

This is a great way to help you pay off your water bill debt quicker. 

Don’t be scared to get in touch with your water supplier to discuss your inability to pay. You could reach an agreement that will avoid any costly County Court Judgements (CCJs) and it’ll protect your credit score. 

Get help with your water bill if you’re on a low income or benefits

If you’re earning a low income or receiving benefits, there is plenty of help out there for paying water bills. Water contributes around £400 a year to household bills and it can put a lot of pressure on those who might be on a low income. 

Here are some steps you can take to make your water bills more affordable:

Apply for a reduced water tariff

Many water suppliers have ‘social tariffs’ designed for customers who might have lower incomes. 

Every water company has different rules and savings with their social tariffs. Some water suppliers might carry out a financial assessment when you apply or they might give you a reduced rate if your household income falls below a certain threshold.

The Consumer Council for Water website has a list of what social tariffs companies offer and how to apply. 

Apply for Watersure to reduce water bills

Watersure is a scheme designed for those on benefits and who use a lot of water. 

You’ll need to prove that you need to use a lot of water in one of the following ways:

  • You have more than three school-age children.
  • You have a medical condition that requires a lot of water.

To qualify for Watersure you’ll also need to be on a benefits scheme.

If you are successful, your water bills will be capped at the average household usage, even if you use a lot more.

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