Coronavirus: changes to services
If your financial situation has changed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, water companies have schemes that offer help.
The NHS are advising people to wash their hands regularly. This will not have a huge impact on most people’s water bills.
Switching to a water meter could help to reduce your bills. With a water meter you pay for how much water you use so you're more likely to benefit if you live in a property with a high rateable value or you don’t use much water, perhaps because you live alone.
If you’re thinking of having a meter installed, try the water meter calculator on the Consumer Council for Water website to see if you might be able to save money. Or contact your supplier for more information.
Meters are installed free of charge and you usually have the option to switch back within two years if you change your mind. You shouldn’t end up paying more than an unmetered household.
If you apply for a water meter but the water company can’t install one, you can ask for an assessed charge bill. This takes into account the number of people in the house or the type of property and could save you money. You can only ask for assessed charges if you apply for a water meter first.
WaterSure schemes can cap the amount you have to pay for your water bill if you’re on means-tested benefits and need to use a lot of water, for example because of a medical condition.
To qualify for a WaterSure scheme you must:
- be on a water meter or waiting to have one installed
- be on certain benefits, such as Pension Credit, depending on what your supplier covers
- have a high essential use of water, for example if you have certain medical conditions.
You will qualify automatically if you have certain medical conditions, such as incontinence or an abdominal stoma, as long as you meet the other criteria. Speak to your doctor about getting a certificate, which you may have to pay for.
Special assistance during COVID-19
If you're having problems paying your bills due to the coronavirus outbreak, you should contact your water company to discuss what help they can offer. Each company has its own scheme to help customers in need. For example, companies can provide alternative payment methods to customers who can no longer pay in cash due to being unable to leave their house. Visit Water UK for more advice on how to get support and stay safe.
Even if you have temporarily moved in with your relatives, or are staying in a hospital or other care setting, you may still have to pay charges for your empty property.
Discount schemes and other help to pay
You can get a range of free services and help if you have particular needs because of age, disability or illness. Ask your supplier to include you on their Priority Services Register. Ofwat has more information.
Some water suppliers offer discount schemes and lower tariffs for older people or people who are living on a low income or certain benefits. What you can get depends on where you live. Visit the Consumer Council for Water website to find out what’s available in your area or contact your supplier.
If you’re struggling to pay your bills your supplier can’t cut off your water supply. They have to take court action to recover the debt. But it’s a good idea to talk to them as soon as possible because most of them can offer advice and support to help you pay.
Water Direct is a scheme run by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). If you’re in debt to your water supplier, the DWP can deduct payments for your water bill from your benefits, for example Pension Credit. To apply, contact your water supplier. You can also ask your supplier if they operate charitable trusts, payment matching or Restart schemes. Ofwat has more information about these schemes.
If you're in financial difficulty, make sure you’re getting all the money you’re entitled to and if you’re in debt, you should get advice. Call our Helpline and arrange to speak to an adviser if you need more information.
Be water wise
Saving water is good for the environment and, if you’re on a meter, these water-saving tips could help cut your bills. Even if you’re not on a water meter, using less hot water could bring down your energy bills.
In the bathroom:
- use a water-saving device, like a Hippo or Save-a-flush, in your toilet cistern – some water companies supply them for free
- a bath typically uses 80 litres of water – take a short shower instead or run a shallower bath – an inch less would save about five litres
- don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth or shaving
- change to a low flow showerhead.
In the kitchen:
- wash vegetables in a bowl rather than under running water and reuse the water on your plants or garden
- using lids on saucepans reduces the amount of water lost and your food will cook more quickly too
- only fill the kettle with what you need
- try and use a full load every time you use a dishwasher or washing machine and look for Eco or economy settings.
There are many more tips on the Waterwise website.