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Have Your Say: water bills

Two taps running into a bath
Will running a bath become a thing of the past?

There is more bad news for people already struggling to pay for their utilities, as increases in water bills come into effect next week.

The above inflation rises have prompted the water customers' watchdog, the Consumer Council for Water, to warn that the number of households facing "water poverty" is on the increase.

Are you struggling to pay your water bill?

Are you thinking of having a water meter fitted to cut costs?

Do you think more help should be available for people in "water poverty"?

Do you have any suggestions on how to save water in the home?

We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below. The debate is now closed.

My supplier's average increase in 2007/8 was 8.8%. My increase was 15.1%. I have endeavoured to find out why my increase was so large, they fudge. I suspect that it's due to my having a water meter. When installed meters usually save you money. However since your water consumption is unchanged, the water supplier gets less revenue. In today's programme a spokesman implied that those using meters are subsidised by others. The whole thing is absurd. You are locked into a private monopoly.
John Barnes

Maybe some people need to prioritise better
Water is one of life's necessities, and should be available and affordable to all. I can't see why people can't afford it, though. If that is the case, maybe some people need to prioritise better!

I work in the water industry and am concerned about the directives that have to be followed which require additional investment with little or no apparent environmental benefit. Cost benefit analysis is not accepted by the Environmental Agency as a criterion for schemes. It's simply to comply with the directive. Hence the water companies have to spend millions on schemes that the public must pay for. Tony Blair promised joined up thinking from government back in 1997, maybe Gordon Brown will actually do something. Or is it all a nice sound bite?

I live in a converted flat, one of several in a large development. My water meter started giving impossibly high readings so I had it checked and eventually replaced, but it continues the same. Apparently, somewhere in the block someone has tapped into my supply and there's nothing I can do about it. I can turn off the water at the main but this is hardly a solution. I'm liable for the cost of all the water, it's a nightmare.
Ian Graham, Sheffield

People need to accept they need to treat water as a precious resource and the government needs to be honest and tell us this
James Young, Barnet
I live in a flat and persisted with getting a meter installed. It took a huge effort and anyone who didn't know how their plumbing worked would have given up. My bills have gone from 330 pa to about 100. In my view there is a huge subsidy going from low consumers (without meters) to high consumers with no meters. My next door neighbour insists on watering his garden all night when it's hot. People need to accept they need to treat water as a precious resource and the government needs to be honest and tell us this- the problem is most people seem unable to understand why they need to make lifestyle changes
James Young, Barnet

The water bills for my studio flat went from 9 a month to 75 a month over the course of two years. There was clearly a leak somewhere but the water company said it was not their responsibility to find it and the building manager said the same. I did everything I could but was powerless to find the leak. Eventually the basement wall collapsed and flooded the shop unit at street level - the leak had been under the pavement, impossible for me to have found. Nonetheless, I was held responsible for the charges - BEWARE THE WATER METER!
John Bradbury

It's quite simple - the government has sold our "necessary to life" utilities to companies which have had no cap put on their rapacious greed for profits. Prices differ across the country whether or not people are on meters. Large numbers of people have been unable to meet their bills for a long time. The situation has now been reached where those with insufficient income to support the overwhelming scale of demand from water/gas/electricity companies can no longer be ignored - the usual government response is late and inadequate. The euphemism 'helping' people to pay is ludicrous. The answer is NOT to give an inadequate sum of money like the winter payment for gas/electricity which only helps to shore up the monumental profit making. The current situation is not sustainable. The answer is to set a fair price now, right across the country.
Sally Moxon, Chesterfield

Imagine if everybody had a water meter fitted. The income to the water supplier would drop. Prices would increase to maintain income, this would result in people using less water which would again result in a price increase to maintain and increase income for the water companies. You can see where this is leading. The best thing these water companies could do is repair their mains and stop the up to 50% loss. this would cut their pumping costs by a large amount and so called shortages would vanish.
J F Burnett, Doncaster

Why is nobody now demanding a popular campaign across Europe to return water supply to public ownership where it rightly belongs?
Ian Shearer, Lytham St Annes
It surprised me that your feature on rising water charges made no mention of the fact that water utility companies continue to make good profits for their shareholders. Why is nobody now demanding a popular campaign across Europe to return water supply to public ownership where it rightly belongs? Water is a public good, and many countries depend on inter-government agreements with their neighbours to guarantee its continued supply.
Ian Shearer, Lytham St Annes

Some people will always waste resources. I have friends that moan about rising bills, yet are happy to leave taps running, fill up kettles for a single cup and machine wash a few items in a load. With a water meter, careful use and the right tariff, the yearly bill should be less than 100 per person.
S Smith, Bucks

Water here in Poland is now about 20% more expensive than in the UK, so you all seem to be getting quite a good deal.
Ian, Wroclaw, Poland

No matter where you live, water conservation is extremely important
Tom, Scottsdale, Arizona
Luckily we have water metering here in the U.S. It is far fairer to people who conserve water rather than wasting it. Even so, living in the desert in the southwest (where two thirds of the land is desert landscaping with little water requirements, and summer time temperatures hit 45C), we still average for the year 2833 litres per day with water and sewer totalling over $1200 (taxes/fees included) annually (over 600). Now add air conditioning which you do not (yet) have to pay. No matter where you live, water conservation is extremely important. A meter is a great way of knowing what you are using and will help you find ways to cut usage.
Tom, Scottsdale, Arizona

I am a single householder who lives in a block of flats where the hot water is supplied by the landlord, consequently I was not able to have a metered supply. However, by requesting a meter I was told that this was not possible and offered an 'assessed charge' based on one adult. This has reduced my annual bill by more than 33%
Alex Elphinstone

England is a wet country: when it rains water should be stored by the water companies in reservoirs. There should be sufficient water stored to supply all of us all that we want to use for a reasonable price. A charge of say 300 per household. Money that could be spent improving the infrastructure i.e. building reservoirs and fixing leaks should not be wasted on water meters: water metering is simply not required in this country. Stop telling us that we are short of water in England. Stop paying such big dividends to the shareholders and start investing in infrastructure. OFWAT should prevent the water companies charging too much, that's their job
S Flanagan

Elect to pay the bill when it is read 6 months in arrears - i.e. pay for water you have used, not for water you are going to use
Phil Lovesay, Brighton
Since installing our meter we are paying approx 240 per year instead of 365 per year. Another bonus is to elect to pay the bill when it is read 6 months in arrears - i.e. pay for water you have used, not for water you are going to use. The money is in your bank not the water company's. My only concern would be the minister's veiled comment about it not being fair that people on water meters save money, what was that all about?
Phil Lovesay, Brighton

We economise by not showering, (let alone bathing) every day, and the kids shower and wash their hair when they go swimming. The loo only gets flushed when there are 'solids'. We've paved over part of the garden. Ironically, I bought reusable nappies because we didn't have a meter, now we have been forced to have a meter, these are no longer an economy so we use more disposables.

It seems amazing that an essential commodity should have been given over to private monopolies
F Padfield
The only "fair" solution I see for the supply of water is to renationalise it. It seems amazing that an essential commodity should have been given over to private monopolies. Private companies' first responsibility is always to their shareholders and profits. An additional unfairness is the difference in charges in different regions. When having a replacement water pipe laid, we were given the choice of having a water meter for a year - and then choosing whether or not to continue with it. There are 2 adults in our household. We live in a small house, Band B. We have a new "ecological" washing machine, no dishwasher, take showers, have several water butts in the garden, don't always flush the lavatory when we use it, but our metered water bill was even higher than previously. We were deeply shocked: and returned to an unmetered water supply.
F Padfield

My husband and I moved into a 3 bed roomed bungalow 4 years ago. The annual water bill was just below 500. We had water meter fitted under the sink, bought a couple of water butts for the garden, take showers instead of baths and recycle any water we can. The bill has dropped to just under 200. My advice to anyone who is keen to save money, and can have a water meter fitted go ahead, I save hundreds of pounds a year, just by taking a few simple measures.
Angela Rodgers

For the past 4 years my water bill has gone up by more than 7% each year. This year it is 9.8%. I don't mind paying a reasonable price but at these inflation busting prices it's no wonder people are having problems.

I live in a 3 bedroom house, but I am the sole occupant, how can they say I will use more water then someone in a 2 bedroom house with 3 people living in it, there should be a reduction for sole occupancy, just like the council tax
Lenie Stepney

People who live in a council owned or housing association house cannot change to a water meter without consent
Gillian Newton
I have a water meter and will be paying 13.50 a month for water and sewage from next month based on last year's water usage. (I am retired and the sole occupant of my house. I shower daily and use water for the washing machine, dishwasher and in the garden). Neighbours without water meters in similar properties face a monthly charge of around 48 a month - but people who live in a council owned or housing association house cannot change to a water meter without consent of the council/housing association - and this has been refused in the instances I know of "in case a future tenant finds it expensive". Meanwhile, older people whose water usage would be much like mine, are struggling to pay three times as much as I do out of their pensions. The choice should be theirs, not their landlords!
Gillian Newton

In a strange sort of way, since I have a meter, I'm not looking forward to everyone having a meter as that will probably be the end of it being so much cheaper.
Ian O'Rourke

We are pensioners and save water from the hot water tap that takes 2.5 litres before the hot comes through. It is used to flush the toilet. We fill a water butt from the roof to water the garden or top up the mini fishpond. We wash the car with buckets every couple of months. We are on a meter and see others without a meter creaming off the advantages very often with state benefits. Why oh why did we ever save for our old age? We are only being used for the fat cats to keep them in the manner to which they are accustomed and lower mortals to be thankful for their crumbs.
Keith Likeman

Why do I keep getting hit with rises in cost when my usage has not increased?
R Purvis
My water rates for this year have just come in with an increase of a couple of pounds now hitting over 30 per month. We live in a wet country and have the technology to harvest rainfall efficiently but I have no doubt that water is still seeping out of pipes all over the country, I conserve water in the house and the garden, half flush toilet, drain water on the garden, share a bath etc so why do I keep getting hit with rises in cost when my usage has not increased?
R Purvis

Southern Water install water meters for free if independently supplied, and about 80 if shared like I had to do. Instantly I saved and cut my water/sewage from about 300 a year to half at least, and now take more care using water. It's the sewage you save a lot on. People with a high rateable value who can get a water meter will save. I don't understand those who have not saved by switching to a water meter. It about time all water companies offered water meters.
Toni Bates

"Water poverty"! A new phrase to go along with fuel poverty. Can anyone explain why people having to pay more than 3% of their income on water is defined as water poverty. Why not 2.5% or 4% or some other number? How did anyone come up with 3%? The fundamental problem is people don't have enough money, all these types of poverty (fuel, water etc) are just cheap phrases for journalists and campaigners to use. Whatever next? "Beer poverty"? "Chocolate poverty"?.
Jon Fieldsend

I would like to know why the residents of Spain only have to pay approximately 90-110 per annum for their water rates when they get so little in the way of rainfall in the south, for instance. Spain has hundreds and hundreds of miles of beach to keep clean for the tourists - this is the main reason given to people of the South West UK for the exorbitant charges of the water company here. I have lived on Continental Europe and know the extent to which we are taken for a ride in this country with all manner of utility charges. We have a water meter, don't let the tap run whilst cleaning teeth, use a shower instead of a bath every day, do not have a garden to water and certainly do not waste water. Water is a precious commodity and we will be fighting over it and food in the future. We are pensioners on a very limited budget.
Chris, Torbay

As much water as you want (not need) for about 1.22 a day - what's the problem?
D Frater
More moaning again - just like BA's Terminal 5. We have the safest drinking water straight from the tap in the world. Of course it costs money but we would/could not pay for energy like 2/3rds of us pay for water (use as much as you like for a flat charge) - metering is the fairest way of charging because it encourages prudence with a precious life sustaining resource. Again, plenty of people want something for nothing - how many of us think about the 50 we spend every time we fill up the car - we just do it. As much water as you want (not need) for about 1.22 a day - what's the problem?
D Frater

The cost of water and sewage should be the same throughout England. A standard cost per unit should be determined, then the cost of government and EU enforced improvements such as "Clean Sweep" which has been charged to South West Water customers to clean the coastline of Devon, Cornwall and parts of Dorset and Somerset should be added to the other improvements imposed on other water companies and this divided equally and raised throughout England. In the South West we are about 2 million persons paying for improvements whilst those in Thames Water for instance are many millions more, and they do not have to maintain a coastline for the benefit of others.
Allan Williams

The way of setting water charges for individual households is now socially unjust and outdated
Jo Coles
Household water charges are based on rateable values fixed in the 1990s. I pay the highest water charges of similar - and extended - houses in my street because of some quirk of a higher rateable value when prices were set long before I moved into my home. I look after two small children and cannot have a water meter yet I pay over 600 each year as a sole part time wage earner who receives no benefits. I am at my wit's end over the escalating cost and feel that the way of setting water charges for individual households is now socially unjust and outdated. We have no choice of water supplier - when is the government going to overhaul this outdated situation?
Jo Coles

I am a single low usage user of water. I had a meter fitted before I moved here to live alone; my neighbours on no meter pay a quarter per month of my bill on a meter. My water company will not remove my meter. I hate it.
Jane Somerset

In the UK we currently use on average more than 150l/p/d (litres per person per day). The most efficient development can reduce this to 80l/p/d. People who are metered can reduce this (just by fixing taps and getting a water butt) to 120l/p/d. There are loads of really easy ways to reduce water usage and these should be advertised and subsidised for low income families (like the insulation scheme). New developments should automatically be more water efficient. As for going and looking at your meter being a disincentive, I feel that is laziness talking. I have saved over 100 a year since installing my meter. That is a far greater incentive.
Mary Pyne, Basingstoke

Why should people like me... subsidise those who think that they can have large families?
John, Norwich
I am sorry for people who have large families who cannot afford their water bill. But when you have a large family, you pay more electricity, gas, food bills, so what's the difference? Why should people like me who chose to have a small family, subsidise those who think that they can have large families and everyone else can pay for them?
John, Norwich

It is no solution to say "fit a water meter". My 89 year old mother has been told that a meter can not be installed in her flat. She pays considerably more for water than I do. The water companies and the government seem content to ignore this issue and push more and more people into water poverty.
David Sturt, St Albans

Consumers should not just believe it when told meters will reduce water costs. Let's have the facts. What is the total cost for, say, water only? What is the cost of one cubic meter of usage? What are the additional costs (pipe maintenance)? If a consumer's current bill for water only is 16/month what will the metered bill be with same usage?
J Smith, Bodmin

Apparently circumstances do not permit us to have a water meter. So instead our provider has decided to increase our bills because we have three bedrooms in our house. I fail to see how the number of bedrooms, rather than the number of inhabitants using water (two elderly people), justifies this increase.
Ellie Weld, Twickenham

Government, through Town and Country Planning, should ensure that all new build should have a) a grey water system and b) a diverter system so that run off water, whilst waiting for hot water to arrive, joins the grey water system. If these systems were so encouraged, the price of installation would fall thereby making it more likely that older houses would consider having a grey water system also. This would also work with solar panels.
Ralph Wright, Hengoed

It is no use reducing the usage if you don't have a meter
Alex Chan, Oxford
Don't find excuses for not installing a water meter. To reduce your water bill, use less water and install a meter. It is no use reducing the usage if you don't have a meter.
Alex Chan, Oxford

I think every water company should be forced to set a fixed lower rate for people in water poverty and give additional discounts to low users. Schemes such as the pensioner winter fuel payments don't help the poorest in reality, as they go to all pensioners, income regardless. The government doesn't pay anything additionally to the unemployed (who nobody ever mentions in winter payment debates) who still have to pay the same bills and only receive half what the poorest pensioners on pension tax credits get a week. Or if you are working part time on the minimum wage you will not even get tax credits, but then again as these issues don't concern the politicians' demographic middle England voter why should they bother addressing them, and not just sweep the poor under the carpet as usual?
Jay, Norwich

Just a word of warning to anyone thinking of getting a free water meter installed. I had one and it seemed to make sense since I was living alone so my water consumption would be lower than that of a family. However, the standing charge following the installation of the water meter increased so much I ended up paying substantially more. I agree with water metering if it reduces consumption but would advise anyone thinking of doing it to check whether other charges will increase after installation to check whether they will actually be better off financially.
J Parker, Bath

Some people in the world don't have any water
Justin Needham, Farnham
The answer is simple for those whingeing customers. Get a meter and use less water. We are a family of 3 and our annual bill is scarcely half the average 170 for water and sewerage, including standing charges. It isn't difficult. Bah humbug. Some people in the world don't have any water
Justin Needham, Farnham

Only one of my neighbours has a water meter. In order to read it, he has to kneel on the pavement by the road outside his house, remove a fiddly cover (which may not be clean) and shine a torch down a narrow dark hole. For those who check their bills, this is a disincentive to water metering.
Chris Grey, Guildford

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

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