Householders in England and Wales owe more than £2 billion in water bills.
That’s according to a new report by water regulator Ofwat.
It adds the bills have become “an increasing problem in the last five years” and the cost associated with unpaid bills is around £21 a year for every household – an increase from £17 in 2009/2010.
It went on to show low income households, working age adults living alone and lone parents are “more likely to have problems paying their bills and are more likely to be in debt”.
The report adds even if water bills are kept down changes in income and the cost of other essential services going up has put added pressure on households’ budgets.
Citing the debt charity StepChange, Ofwat said the number of people who need help to manage their debts has risen by 56% since 2012.
Cathryn Ross, Ofwat Chief Executive said: “Some companies need to get better at collecting unpaid bills from those customers who can pay but don’t. Yet this report is clear that many households are feeling the squeeze and need support.
“While some companies are improving how they respond to these customers, others have to get better at identifying those at risk and helping those who are genuinely struggling.”
Earlier this year nine water companies announced new tariffs for low income households.
Ofwat previously said water bills would drop by 5% between 2015 and 2020 under its draft proposals published last December.