A GROWING number of households in England and Wales are struggling to afford their water bill, according to research carried out on behalf of the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater).

One in five customers say their water bill is not affordable, as many households continue to battle with cost of living pressures, CCWater’s ‘Water Matters 2013’ survey has revealed. This is an increase from one in eight customers last year.

It also reveals that fewer than six out of ten water customers consider their water and sewerage charges to be fair.

The research highlights why CCWater, together with local challenge groups, has been pressing water companies to put forward price and investment plans for 2015 to 2020 which reflect what their customers want and at a price they think is acceptable.

A final decision on what all water companies can charge over the next five years will be made by Ofwat in December, but there are already positive signs most companies have listened to their customers.

Tony Smith, chief executive of CCWater, said:

Our research shows why our challenge to water companies to deliver proposals for the next five years that are affordable and acceptable to customers is so crucial.

Many water companies have listened and are on track to deliver plans for the future which should begin to address these concerns. Others still have more work to do if they are to turn the tide of customers’ views on affordable bills and satisfaction with value for money.

Water companies are still struggling to bridge the gap between customers’ increased levels of satisfaction with the water and sewerage services they receive, compared to their much lower satisfaction with value for money.

Ninety three per cent of water customers said they were satisfied with their water supply, and 87 per cent with sewerage services, but only about 70 per cent were satisfied with value for money. However some companies are showing signs of improvement on value for money and CCWater will be looking for this to become an established trend in future years.

Customers can use CCWater’s survey results to compare the performance of their own water company over the past three years and with other companies across England and Wales.

To view this information visit the ‘How’s my water company doing’ section of CCWater’s website at www.ccwater.org.uk

And those customers who are struggling to pay their water bill should contact their water company who can usually offer them support with their payments.

The survey’s other key findings include:

  • 54 per cent of customers agree their water and sewerage charges are fair, a significant decline over two years from 67 per cent in 2011 (60 per cent in last year’s report)
  • There is increasing confusion from water customers over what they can safely flush down the toilet.
  • About six in ten water customers who don’t have a water meter would apply for one under the 12 month trial scheme if they discovered it would save them money. Check out our water meter calculator to see if making the switch to a meter could save you money.
  • Awareness of water companies’ support services for the elderly and disabled has risen strongly since 2011 – up from 20 per cent to 31 per cent.
  • The proportion of customers who have done something to protect their home’s water pipes from freezing has fallen from 55 per cent in 2012 to 46 per cent in 2013.
  • Older people remain far more likely than younger customers to take measures to protect water pipes from the cold.

You can read the full Water Matters 2013 report here