An Overview Of UK Water Bills

Woman in the kitchen washing fruit.

With changes in our lifestyle and the resulting purchase of labour-saving appliances, our domestic water consumption has rocketed from 20 litres per person per day in our grandparents’ generation to an average of 150 litres nowadays. This, of course, has led to increased bills. In this article we examine:

  • How much your water bills should be
  • The average water bill in the UK
  • Why your water bills may be high
  • Ways to reduce your water bill

How much should my water bill be?

How much you pay for your water depends on where your live, the rates set by your local water provider, how these rates are calculated and whether you have a meter. All households pay a standing charge to cover administration costs and are then charged separately for their water consumption and sewerage services. Unless you have a meter, your water provider won’t charge you according to your water usage, but will calculate your bill through:

  • a flat-rate charge
  • an assessed volume charge (depending on the size/type of property and the assumed number of occupants)
  • the rateable value of your property (your local authority’s assessment of its rental value)
  • the property’s council tax band (Scotland only)

How much is the average water bill?

According to Water UK, the average water bill is £405 a year. This consists of £189 for water and £216 for sewerage services. In 2018-19, this rose by an average of 2% (or £9) per year.

A plumber is depicted fixing pipes in order to stop a leak which contributes to high water bills

Is there VAT on water bills?

Non-industrial and domestic properties are exempt from paying VAT on their water bills. Certain industries such as those involved in engineering and manufacturing pay a standard rate on a 1-5 SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) scale, but are only charged VAT on their water supply charges (and not for sewerage disposal).

Why is my water bill so high?

There are a number of reasons why your water bill is high. In general, if you have fewer occupants than bedrooms, you might be assessed as using more water than your household does. In this case, having a meter fitted will help to reduce your bills. The Consumer Council for Water have a free water meter calculator which can help you decide if this is the right option.

One way to help you save water would be to install gadgets such as tap inserts

If you have a higher-than-normal bill, this could be for a variety of reasons such as:

  1. a change in the numbers in your household such as the birth of a baby
  2. the purchase of water-hungry appliances such as a power shower or a combined washer-dryer
  3. changes to the home like building work, renovation or redecorating
  4. extra seasonal usage in the garden, or the addition of a water feature like a pond
  5. hidden leaks, poorly-plumbed domestic appliances or dripping taps

How to reduce your water bill

Although you can’t change your water service provider as you can with electricity, you can reduce your water bills by making simple changes to your habits such as turning off running taps when washing up.

You can also make savings by the installation of gadgets such as tap inserts. Many are available from your water company free of charge. The postcode search on the site of Save Water Save Money will inform you of what’s on offer in your area.