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Rise in water bills hits struggling households

According to price comparison and switching service uSwitch.com, the average household will now have to spend just over £30 a week to provide the bare essentials of heating, lighting and water. This adds up to £133 a month or £1595 a year, compared with £104 a month or £1242 a year in 2008.

In fact, despite the recent cut in energy prices, households are now paying £353 more a year on these essentials than they were this time last year.

Will Marples, home utilities expert at uSwitch.com, said: "A £13 increase in water bills may not seem much, but it adds to the steady flow of money draining away from household budgets. Consumers will be shocked to find that they are now paying an extra £353 a year to cover the bare essentials of heating, lighting and water. At the beginning of 2008 these cost £104 a month or £1242 a year. Today households can expect to pay £133 a month or £1595 a year – a 28% increase in a year.

"Unfortunately, households don’t have much option with water bills – they can’t shop around for a better deal. However, they can opt to go onto a water meter, which would mean only paying for the water they actually use. At the moment only 35% of households are on a water meter but we expect this to rise to 37% by March 2010. As a rule of thumb, if there are more bedrooms than people in a household then a water meter could be more cost effective.

"If you do switch to a meter and then find it doesn’t save you money you can always come back off it again, as long as you do so within a year. More importantly, those consumers who are advised by their water company that they can’t have a meter installed can still request to have their charges assessed at a metered rate, which again means that they should see a reduction in their bill. Consumers can also use the free uSwitch.com water calculator to find out whether switching to a water meter would save them money."

Pros and cons of installing water meters:

* If you are not on a water meter there is no way of reducing your bills as you pay a set amount depending on the rateable value of your property. If you switch to a meter reducing your water consumption could save money;
* If you switch to a water meter and find that you are not saving money or are unhappy with the change, you can switch back to unmeasured charging within 12 months;
* The general rule of thumb: if there are less people in your house than bedrooms (ie – two people living in a four-bedroom family home) then you could save money by switching to a water meter;
* For larger families, it may be difficult to regulate water consumption therefore a meter may not save money. Customers living in compulsory metering areas will need support in regulating and reducing consumption.

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