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Along with the anticipated increase in energy bills in April, water bills are also due to rise too. Industry body Water UK has said the 7.5 percent rise would see household bills hit £488 a year, amassing to around £31 more than last year.
The increase comes as water firms are set to invest a further £70billion to “eliminate harm” from storm overflows, “transform” rivers and seas, and increase water supplies by building new reservoirs and national water transfer schemes.
Water UK describes the investment as “a critical part” of the nation’s response to future drought and climate change.
Consumer groups warn the increase could be the tipping point for the one in five customers already struggling to pay, however, Water UK argue that water bills still remain lower in real terms than they were a decade ago.
The firm also noted that companies are “acutely aware” of the impact of price rises on lower-income and vulnerable customers and have recently increased the level of support offered by more than £200million to help “hundreds of thousands more households”.
Stuart Colville, director of policy at Water UK, said: “With an average increase of around 60p a week, most customers will again see a below-inflation increase in their water bill. However, we know that any increase is unwelcome, particularly at the moment.
“That is why companies are also releasing an extra £200 million to help those that may be struggling.
“Anyone with worries should contact their water company or go to supportontap.org for advice, and it’s worth remembering that water companies will never cut anyone off, or make them use a prepayment meter.”
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Mr Colville added: “Next year’s bills will support what is already the highest level of investment on record, with a further £70billion set to be spent over coming years on building new reservoirs and ending overflows into rivers.”
Regional variations and factors such as whether a customer is metered and how much water they use meant some households could face rises significantly above – or below – the average, the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) said.
Emma Clancy, chief executive at CCW, said: “Water is essential for all of us so no one should be worried about being able to afford their bill. These increases will bring more uncertainty to struggling households at a time when they can’t be certain they will get the help they need.
“Low-income households need immediate relief and the long-term security of knowing their water bill will be affordable.
“It’s not fair that struggling households face a postcode lottery when it comes to getting help with their bill – that’s why we urgently need a new water affordability scheme that provides consistent support based on people’s needs.”
Jess Cook, water poverty lead at National Energy Action (NEA), added: “The current postcode lottery means where you live affects what you pay and what support you receive.
“Social tariffs are essential for low-income households. Discounted water bills for those struggling to pay can stop the most vulnerable from cutting back or running up debt when they can ill afford to do so.”
Water UK highlighted the support currently available to low-income households, including the WaterSure scheme as well as the Priority Services Register.
The WaterSure scheme caps water bills for low-income customers on a meter, which means eligible households will not pay any more than the average metered bill for the area their water company deals with.
The Priority Services Register is a free support service that makes sure extra help is available to people in vulnerable situations.
It’s available to a wide range of people, from those with sight, hearing, or mobility difficulties, to parents with babies under 12 months old, and the type of support on offer can include things like reading meters or sending out bills in other formats. People can contact their water company to find out more.
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