22 April 2012

In this country we have the worst of both worlds when it comes to water*:
privatised companies but no competition.  

And most householders in England and Wales receive bills where the price is fixed, depending on a home's 'rateable value'. Council Tax bandings are based on the value of a home in 1989, based roughly on how much your home could be rented out for.  
With Council Tax banding you can challenge your banding if you think it's too high (see www.mse.me/council) but there's absolutely no facility to allow challenges to the rates-based water bills.
But it's not all bad news as we can take some action ourselves.  
Apparently, it's often worth having a water meter, with the rule of thumb being that if there are more bedrooms in your home than people it's probably worth changing to a meter.  
As water bills are mainly based on house value, a large, sparsely populated home is likely to be disproportionately costly.  Plus, as meters are free, switching should be worthwhile (except in Scotland where you have to pay).  
Not everyone will save, so try online calculators at the Consumer Council for Water (ccwater.org.uk) or at uswitch.com/water, or ring your local water company to ask for their formal calculation, but first take note of these points:  
  • If your savings are going to be minimal, don't switch.  
  • You're allowed to switch back within a year (or a month after your second measured bill, whichever is later), so you can change your mind.
  • Some people say that having a water meter could put off house purchasers, but meters are likely to be rolled out across the country some time, so this isn't really a problem. (When we moved into this house, some five years ago, the water bill would have been £1,400 per year, so we immediately had a water meter installed and our bills plummeted to about £600 a year, so well worth the change)
Take regular meter readings to keep the bills more accurate.  
Also, there is a scheme called Water-Sure, which gives reductions for people in receipt of benefits who either look after more than two children or have a medical condition which requires higher water usage.  To see if you qualify for the Water-Sure Tariff which caps your bills, see ofwat.gov.uk.

If the water company won't give you a meter, for instance in blocks of flats, ask for an 'assessed tariff' which is a rough assessment of how much water you're likely to use, and thus how much you'd pay on a meter.
And, if you live alone you may also be eligible for a lower Single Occupancy Tariff.  Many people make substantial savings with this option.
ALSO: Water bills usually assume that what goes in must come out and therefore roughly 90% of the water used will manifest itself in sewerage.  
Yet if you live in a small town or village and have a 'soakaway', ie a pit of gravel that collects surface rainwater, you'll send less water through the sewers and should ask for money deducted from your bill.
The same goes for anyone on a meter who has a swimming pool in their garden.  If you're pumping a large volume of water from an outside tap that isn't being washed away down the drain, yh ou're due a discount.
If you're not even connected to the mains sewerage, and have a septic tank or cesspit, you don't have to pay sewerage charges at all.  If  you water company makes a fuss about giving you a rebate, contact the Consumer Council for Water.

Top Thirteen Water-Saving Tips:
  1. For meter users, saving water automatically saves money.
  2. For those who are billed, a big chunk of home energy costs come from heating water - use less and you cut that, too.
  3. 'If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown flush it down' is a good mantra to remember, if you can.
  4. Bathe together, it could be fun!
  5. Whilst running the tap to temperature, store the water. Fill up empty bottles while you wait for it to cool down or heat up. Plus stand a washing up bowl in the shower to collect excess water (we use a silver (coloured) plastic bucket - looks chic). Use what you get for flushing the loo, or for garden and house plants.
  6. Save up washing up, dishwashing or clothes-washing.  Wait until the sink, dishwater or washing machine is full for maximum efficiency.  A good excuse to delay chores!
  7. Water the garden with water from sink - or even from washing machine and baths - if possible.
  8. Mulch the garden plants. Cover them with wood chippings or leaf mould to retain moisture for longer, so less watering
  9. Fit dual-flush buttons on your loo. It's easy to do and there can be good savings.
  10. Shave and save, just use one mug of water while shaving to get rid of hair, don't use a running tap.
  11. Turn the shower off until you're ready to rinse.  If you're stepping outside the flow, turn the tap off. Same applies when brushing teeth.
  12. Install one - or more - water butts in the garden. As well as being useful for water plants, also good for washing off vegetables, cleaning boots etc.
  13. Don't miss out on freebees: to help cut usage, water companies offer a mass of water-saving freebies, including save-a-flushes, bath buoys, shower timers, efficient showerheads and more, see MoneySavingExpert.com.
Now, all we need to do is to persuade our other halfs to join us in these water-saving plans ...
We saw/used one of these when in Scotland recently! The loo cistern fills up via the tap.
from: http://oddity.quirkdesign.co.uk/2010/08/25/unique-water-savers/

Other interesting and helpful sites include:
It doesn't just come out of the tap!

* According to Martin Lewis, creator of MoneySavingExpert.com

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