A black mum helps her two children wash their hands at the sink.

A step change in financial support for low-income customers is needed alongside large scale investment from water companies to improve services and protect the environment.

That’s the message from CCW as water companies prepare today to submit their five-year business plans to the regulator Ofwat as part of the on-going price review – known as PR24.

Water UK has already indicated that companies’ proposals would result in a £96 billion package of investment between 2025 and 2030.

However this would put considerable pressure on customers’ bills. The average water and sewerage bill would rise by around £156 from current levels by 2030 – before inflation is added.

Water companies have until midday on Monday (October 2) to submit their plans to the regulator. These plans should then be available for customers to read on their company’s website by the end of the day.

Mike Keil, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), said:

Customers want to see investment in improving their services and enhancing the environment but any proposed substantial bill rises will add to the worries of many struggling households. Investment on this scale must come hand-in-hand with fairer and more consistent support for the nearly one in four households who say they are already struggling to pay their water bill. We also want to see evidence in these plans that more water companies are putting their hand in their own pocket to fund a step change in financial support for struggling customers.

The water industry is at a crossroads with trust in water companies lower than it has been for more than a decade but this is an opportunity to put things right and set us on a more positive path. Customers need to see and feel the difference through the services they receive.

CCW will be scutinising each company’s business plan closely to make sure it reflects what customers have said they want, at a price they consider to be affordable.

The Price Review is a lengthy process and final decisions are not made by the regulator until December 2024, leaving plenty of opportunity for plans to be challenged and changed.