The average household water and sewerage bill in England and Wales is set to drop by an average of 5% over the next five years.
That’s according to the water regulator, Ofwat, which today published draft price control proposals for 2015-2020.
Setting the price of water
Every five years the prices the 18 water and wastewater companies can charge customers they serve in England and Wales have to be set in agreement with Ofwat.
2014/2015 represents the final year of the current five-year pricing plan which ran from April 2010 to April 2015. The next price control period covers April 2015 to April 2020.
For the next phase of price regulation, Ofwat has altered how it decides on the limits and has placed the responsibility with water companies to understand what their customers want and can afford.
According to the regulator, the 18 water companies that serve England and Wales have engaged directly with over a quarter of a million of their customers resulting in the "biggest ever customer conversation" to drive what these firms do over the next five years.
Ofwat says as a result of this change, all but two companies proposed bills that were either held at or below inflation.
Despite putting more responsibility with water companies, Ofwat still gets the final say on what’s fair. The regulator says it has challenged proposals and intervened when it considered it necessary to protect customers.
Sonia Brown, chief regulation officer, said: “Some companies provided excellent, customer-focused plans. Others did not include sufficient evidence to justify their plans, and so we stepped in to make sure customers get a fair deal.”
Driving costs down
The draft price controls for all 18 companies have now been announced, and if implemented, will result in average bills for water and sewage customers in 2015-2020 that are 5% lower compared to 2010-2015.
But while costs are being cut Ofwat says the companies will deliver better levels of service with a combined investment totalling more than £43 billion.
This money over the next five years will bring a 40% reduction in the time lost to supply interruptions, a reduction of 1,200 incidences of internal sewer flooding, cleaner water at more than 50 beaches and save at least 340 million litres a day tackling leakage and promoting water efficiency.
The draft price proposals are now open for consultation until 3rd October 2014.
Final determinations will be published on 12th December 2014 with the first charges in-line with the decision coming into force from April 2015.
Cutting the cost of your water bill
Unlike other utilities like gas and electricity you can’t choose your water and wastewater supplier.
So that means it’s important that bills are manageable as customers can’t shop around for a better deal.
However, if you are struggling with your bill there are still ways to save.
One way is to install a water meter in your home, which will ensure you only pay for the water you use rather than an average amount based on your property.
Generally the device will cuts the cost of your bill if there are fewer people living in a property than there are rooms. The Consumer Council for Water has a calculator that can help you check if you could save with one.
Alternatively you can try to alter your habits to reduce your water consumption like having a shower instead of a bath or only using the washing machine or dishwasher when they're full up.