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Hosepipe ban: Keep a lid on water costs

Coins flowing from a tapWith the UK on the brink of its worst drought in 30 years and a hosepipe ban now in place in southern and eastern England, consumers are being urged to get serious about saving water.

Water bill changes for this 2012-13 financial year came into effect at the start of April.

And figures from the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) show that due to current high inflation, water customers will see the average bill rising by 5.7 per cent. 

The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do in your own home to manage the cost of water bills – meaning you can save both water and money at the same time. 

Consider a water meter

First off, it’s worth finding out if you can save money by having a water meter installed.

Around 40 per cent of households currently have a water meter, according to the industry regulator Ofwat.

This compares to 37 per cent in 2009, and is due to rise to 50 per cent by 2015.

Generally speaking, this is the fairest way of billing customers, as it means they only pay for what they use – plus installation is free.

To find out about water meters, contact your water company. The CCW have put together a useful water meter calculator to see if having one installed could save you money.

Will I save money?

As a rule of thumb, if there are more bedrooms that people in a household, a water meter can make good financial sense, according to Gareth Kloet from Confused.com.

"For example, two people living in a four-bedroom family home may be able to save by moving to a meter," he says.

"However, for larger families, being on a water meter may not be cost effective, as your water consumption may be high."

If you switch to a water meter and find you are not saving money, or are unhappy with the change, you can switch back to unmeasured charging within 12 months of having it fitted.

Help with paying

Dame Eve Buckland of CCW says: "If the company finds a meter can’t be fitted at your property, it must offer to switch you to an alternative assessed charge instead."

An assessed charge reflects what the likely metered bill would have been.

Equally, if you’re struggling to pay your water bill, you should contact your water company.

Buckland adds: "The supplier may offer to help with special payment arrangements, or, in some cases, reduced rates and assistance schemes."

As well as water meters, there are plenty of other water-saving steps you can take to keep a lid on costs.

Take a shower

Big savings can be made by taking a shower rather than a bath.

Showers use about nine litres of water per minute, according to the Environment Agency, so a five-minute shower will use about a third of the water of a bath.

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) reckons that by having a shower instead, you can save £23 a year in gas bills and £21 in water meter bills.

Further, by fitting an eco-shower head, you can save £60 in gas bills and £90 in water meter bills, as these devices use between 40 per cent and 60 per cent less than a normal shower.

Fit a hippo

To save water when flushing, fit a plastic container or "hippo" into the cistern, as every time the toilet is flushed the hippo saves up to three litres of water.

Fitting a dual flush device can save you £123 in water meter bills.

Also ensure you keep the taps turned off when brushing your teeth and check any taps are tightened properly so they are not dripping. 

Wash up efficiently

There are also savings to be made when you wash up.

Washing up in a bowl can save you £34 in gas bills and £25 in water bills, according to the EST.

Also ensure you only use the washing machine with a full load. 

Get a water butt

As the average UK roof collects around 85,000 litres of rain-water each year, start putting this to good use by installing a water butt to collect it.

You can then use this water to wash your car and water your garden – or even to flush your toilet. 

Save on other bills

With household finances stretched to their limits, it’s worth seeing if you can save money on all of your bills –not just your water bill.

Kloet says: "Take steps to cut the cost of your gas and electricityhome phone and broadband by shopping around to check you’re on the most competitive tariff or deal."




Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw is a regular contributor to Confused.com and is the former deputy money editor at The Independent and Independent on Sunday. Before that, she worked as a money and City reporter on The Daily Express and Sunday Express.
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