I had a water meter installed when I was single and living alone, as I understood it was a good way to keep bills low for someone with low consumption.
My bills were around £30 a month. But now that my partner has moved in, they have risen to £56 a month.
That seems excessive to me. Would an extra person showering and flushing the toilet really make that much of a difference?
The number of times I use the washing machine and dishwasher has only increased slightly and definitely not doubled. We are quite careful with water and we have cigarette butts in the garden.
Is there anything I can do? Can you remove my water meter and return to the standard rate? Would it be cheaper with two people?
Money down the drain: Having a water meter made sense when our reader lived alone, but now that her partner has moved away, costs are rising. Can you go back to an unmetered rate?
Harvey Dorset from This Is Money responds: Moving in with a partner can reduce household costs in several ways.
Energy bills are unlikely to rise substantially, for example, while sharing the cost of rent or a mortgage can be a game-changer.
However, this is not the case when it comes to water costs. In the UK, water bills are calculated based on a fixed rate or the actual amount of water used, measured by a water meter.
Average water bills are expected to rise to £473, or £27 a year, from April.
If you don’t use a lot of water, a water meter has its advantages. They can save people who live alone money, as their usage will likely be below the averages used to calculate unmetered bills.
These bills are based on the “taxable value” of a property, meaning homes with fewer people than the number of bedrooms typically save with an meter.
The downside to a meter, as you may have discovered, is that the cost will vary depending on your usage, meaning new appliances that use water or people who live with you could increase the price.
> Read more: Should my water bill double if I pay monthly instead of twice a year?
Sharp rise: The typical water bill will rise by £27 this year to £473, having risen since 2020/21.
For those on low incomes, each water supplier offers a ‘WaterSure’ tariff that limits the metered bill to the average household bill in your area.
This rate is offered to low-income people with three or more children living with them, or if they have a medical condition that involves the use of large volumes of water.
Unfortunately, in your case it seems that looking to reduce your water consumption may be the only real solution to your higher bill.
I asked two water experts for advice on what you can do to deal with your water bill.
Andy White Recommends Checking for Leaks That Could Increase Your Water Bill
Andy White, senior social policy leader at the Water Consumer Council, said: Most of the water we use in our homes is spent showering, bathing, and flushing the toilet. Thus, one more person in the house will see the amount of water used increase considerably.
The increase you’re seeing doesn’t seem too far off from what we might expect to see.
Other factors could also be contributing to the increase in monthly payments. Water charges have increased in recent years because they are linked to inflation, so depending on when your partner moved in, that may also be a factor.
Another possibility is that the estimated readings before your partner moved in could have resulted in a balance in the account that was not covered by the £30 a month payment.
Once an actual reading is taken, future monthly payments should include an element to catch up on this shortfall.
If you speak to your water company or our team at CCW, they will be able to explore the details of your account further to find out exactly what has caused the change.
In the meantime, you can check roughly what you should expect to pay for a meter. using our water meter calculator.
By entering a few details about your water usage, you’ll quickly get an estimate of what we’d expect you to pay based on your water company’s rates. It’s also a really useful tool for those trying to identify whether it would be better to switch to a meter.
Can I get rid of my water meter?
The only circumstances in which you could stop paying your meter bills is if you chose to install the meter and did so within the last 2 years.
Unless you live in a region where meters are now mandatory, water companies will allow those who opted to switch to a meter for up to two years to revert to metering if they are not satisfied.
If you still think your usage is high, then it’s worth checking for problems such as a leak or a leaky toilet. Water constantly running down the side of the toilet is a telltale sign.
Take a meter reading before leaving the empty house for the day with all water-using appliances turned off.
Then do another reading when you get home. If the numbers have increased, it suggests that there may be some type of leak.
Ben Brading warns that baths and showers are the biggest contributors to increased water consumption
Ben Brading, CEO of utility bill comparison service AquaSwitch, said: Unfortunately, the increase in water bills is what you would expect after your partner moves out.
For homes equipped with a water meter, your local water company can measure how much water your home uses and the bulk of your bill is a volumetric charge calculated from this figure.
The increase in your monthly costs suggests that your water consumption has increased significantly.
However, this is to be expected as the occupancy of your property doubles from one person to two.
The biggest impact of your partner’s move is due to the increased use of toilets and showers, which together account for the majority of water consumption in a typical home.
Modern dishwashers and washing machines are actually quite efficient, contributing only 10 percent of average household water use.
Water meters are installed in areas of the country where water scarcity is a problem because they encourage efficient water use, so your water company would likely deny a request to remove your meter.
Therefore, our best advice is to try to reduce water consumption.
Here are three tips that represent the best opportunities to do so:
• If possible, choose to shower rather than bathe and limit the amount of time you spend showering.
• Turn off the faucet while you and your partner brush your teeth.
• If you have an older toilet, use a water-saving device on your cistern.
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