Four million households ‘water poor’

March 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm

An influential think tank has warned Britain that unless climate change is dealt with urgently, “water poverty” will become a serious problem in the UK for many households. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one of the largest charities on social policy research and development, defines water poverty as occurring when households spend 3% of their income or more on their water bills. It estimates that four million households in the UK are already “water poor”.

According to the report, climate change will lead to increased demand for water, causing a dramatic increase in water prices over the years. Many water companies are already moving away from fixed charges, instead charging their customers on the amount consumed. Water bills are now predicted to rise by as much as 5% a year for some households. The Foundation claims that these increases will make water unaffordable for some families.

The report also states that the south-west of England will be the worst affected. Consumers in this area already face bills which are on average 43% higher than the rest of the country, but the problem will be exacerbated in the coming years with the influx of people, including tourists, into the region. The south-east already has a three-tier pricing system, which many residents believe is unfair due to different household sizes and medical needs. Any further price increases may be unsustainable for low-income families with higher water consumption.

There is currently no equivalent to winter fuel payments for water poverty. However, a number of schemes exist such as WaterSure, which can put a cap on water charges for people in special circumstances, for example those who are on a low income and have medical needs.

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Bills set to top £500

March 5, 2011 at 2:36 pm

For hard pressed home owners who are struggling with increased bills for gas, electricity, food, and drink, there is bad news on the horizon from the water industry regulator, Ofwat.

Price increases relating to each of the major water companies are to be announced shortly, but it seems that the worst hit customers will be those in the South West of England. The average bill for the 1.3 million South West Water Company households is expected to break the £500 barrier from April this year, going from £487 to £527. By way of explanation for the apparently large increase, South West Water has said that it has to clean up 30% of the country’s coastline but only has 3% of the country’s households as customers.

Consumers in the north of England are somewhat luckier, with the average bill for a Northumbrian Water customer expected to increase from a low £311 to £338.

The national average for a water bill is expected to go up from £364 to £384.

The increased revenue from water bills will be used to fund investment in the infrastructure and mend leaks. Northern Ireland hit the headlines in December when the lack of investment had catastrophic results, with home owners left without water for days on end.

With consumers having no choice over who supplies their water, the only way to save money, apart from reducing the amount used, is to have a water meter installed. For households with more bedrooms than occupants, a meter is almost guaranteed to save on bills.

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