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Water charges in the UK include two elements' water and sewerage. Water charges are for the fresh water you receive in your taps. Sewerage charges are for wastewater flowing out of your home for further treatment. In April 2014, water charges were raised by 2% or approximately £8. This takes the annual UK household spending on water and sewerage charges to £393.
Water charges vary by the type of connection. There are two connection types - unmetered and metered.
Under the unmetered method, you pay for water consumption and for using the sewerage service at rates pre-determined by your service provider. These rates are on the basis of your property's rateable value (RV) or the annual rental value as of March 1990.
For example, if you live in Dartford, Kent, then Thames Water will charge you at its set rate of 82.80p per pound of your property's rateable value for water services. Plus, you will have to pay 47.03p per pound of your property's ratable value for sewerage services.
In the metered method, you pay according to the units shown in your water meter readings. On average, 40% of homes in England and Wales have a meter.
Southern Water charges a rate of £1.201 per cubic meter. So if you consume 208 cubic meters of water annually, you will be paying a water charge of around £250 (£1.201x208). Additionally, there is a sewerage or wastewater charge, which is charged for 90-95% of the water consumed. As per the above example, Southern Water will charge £2.273 per cubic meter (for 90-95% of 208 cubic meters) for wastewater or sewerage services.
In addition to water consumption charges, both unmetered and metered methods will include a fixed or standing charge on both water and sewerage charges. The fixed or standing charge is for treating the water or wastewater, generating bills, providing customer support, and in case of metered connections, reading the meters. Using the Southern Water example, if you have a metered connection you will have to pay an additional standing charge of £27.17 on water supply and £21.57 on sewerage per annum.
In most cases, you can choose between one of the two. However, at times you may have to use the meter compulsorily. Like, in select areas where there is a water shortage, government has allowed water providers to ensure compulsory metering. A meter is also compulsory if you have automatic watering equipment such as sprinklers, you use a power shower, you have an enormous bath, or you have a large swimming pool which requires automatic filling. You will also have a meter installed by default if you move into a new property, though, you can choose not to be charged as per the meter if you are not under any of the mandatory categories.
Unlike gas and electricity, you cannot change your water services provider. At times, using a meter can provide you with savings, depending on water consumption. Additionally, all water companies offer a WaterSure scheme, which can provide some savings for qualifying households either with three children below 19 or with people with severe medical conditions who may require a high amount of water.
You can use our household budget calculator to see how water expenses are impacting your household budget.