Water companies across England and Wales have pledged to invest £96bn in improving Britain’s water infrastructure, but the upgrades will come at the cost of a water bill increase for consumers.
The investment is hoped to fight water waste and reduce sewage spills in public rivers and beaches. However, with the cost of living crisis ongoing, water suppliers are under scrutiny as they discuss raising consumer bills. The pressure is on to both demonstrate the value of the work and carry it out as efficiently as possible.
How much is being invested?
More than £96bn will be invested by water companies in England and Wales between 2025 and 2030, according to water supplier’s proposals. This is almost double the investment made between 2020 and 2025. £11bn of the package is specifically earmarked for combatting sewage overflows.
Since the water supply was privatised in 1989, almost £200bn has been spent by companies on maintianing the water network. The new round of investment represents a massive undertaking and is by far the largest investment made in a single 5-year period.
What upgrades are being made?
The money will be spent improving the infrastructure that supplies water in England and Wales. Plans include constructing ten new reservoirs to protect against drought and repairs that will reduce water wastage by 25% compared to 2020.
Other expected areas for investment are water recycling and desalination plants as suppliers look towards long-term water security.
How high will the water bill increase be?
By 2030, the average customer can expect to pay £13 more a month or £156 more a year for their water. The water bill increase will vary by region and supplier.
The sharpest water bill increase will be for customers of Southern Water, who can expect to see a £262 jump in their annual bills by 2030. The lowest water bill increase will be for customers of Anglian Water, who can expect an average rise of £77 by 2030.
Can I beat the water bill increase by switching suppliers?
Unfortunately, no – or at least, not without moving home. In the UK, your water supplier is determined by where you live. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are supplied by Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh Water respectively. In England, you are supplied by one of nine agencies based on the region you live in. There is no way to change which company supplies an address.
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More support will be offered to those struggling to afford water bills
Water UK has committed to more than doubling the number of households eligible for help with their water bills from 1.2 million to 3.2 million.
David Henderson, chief executive of Water UK stated “While increasing bills is never welcome, this investment in our country’s infrastructure is essential to ensure the security of our water supply.
Water companies are seeking regulatory approval to reduce overflow spills into rivers and seas as fast as possible and to doubling the number of households receiving support to pay their bills.”
The challenge remains to make sure that those who are eligible for the support receive it. According to Ofwat’s research earlier this year, only 3 out of 10 water customers are aware of the support they could be receiving from their supplier.