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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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