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Understanding water rates and meters

Unlike gas and electricity companies, you can only be supplied by your regional water company. You can’t switch to another water supplier. There are around 25 water suppliers across England, Scotland, and Wales.

How are water rates calculated?

Water suppliers do charge different rates across the country, as it depends on where they are located, the size of the region, and what the water supply is like in that region. However, they must all submit their rates to the regulator, Ofwat, every five years, so they can be reviewed and approved.

The charges are calculated based on the costs of providing water, maintaining the pipes and sewers, and treating the water to make sure it is clean and drinkable.

Some homes have water meters – these mean you will be billed according to what you use. Other homes are unmetered, which means they pay a flat rate based on the rateable value for your home. As the rateable value is not based on how many people live there, you won’t pay less if you live alone. You can’t apply to change the rateable value of your home, the rates were last calculated in 1990 and they are no longer being assessed.

Should I get a water meter?

If you live alone and use very little water, or your property has a high rateable value (which affects how much you pay for water), then you could consider switching to a water meter.

Households in England and Wales can ask for a water meter to be fitted free of charge. The water company can refuse if it thinks that installing one isn’t practical or is too expensive. You can switch back to unmetered billing within 12 months if you find that having a meter makes your bills higher.

You can’t have a water meter removed if you move into a property where there already is one. Generally the water company can’t insist that you have a meter fitted, but there are exceptions to that, such as if you live in an area with a low water supply.

If you want to find out if you could cut your bill by using a water meter, use the calculator on the Consumer Council for Water’s website.

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

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For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081

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