One in five householders cannot afford to pay their water bills, the industry watchdog has revealed.
Research by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) found the figure is an increase from one in eight customers last year.
Its survey also reveals that less than six out of 10 water customers consider their water and sewerage charges to be fair.
CCWater believes water firms are still struggling to bridge the gap between customers’ increased levels of satisfaction with services they receive compared to their “much lower satisfaction” with value for money.
It found although 93% of water customers said they are “satisfied” with their water supply and 87% with sewerage services, only around 70% are satisfied with value for money.
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.”
The survey also found there is “increasing confusion” over what water customers can safely flush down their toilet. Awareness of water companies’ support services for the elderly and disabled has however “strongly risen” since 2011 – up from 20% to 31% now.