Three million households across England and Wales are struggling to afford their water bills.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) claims this is despite what it describes as “rapid growth” in water company schemes designed to help consumers pay their bills, with almost 700,000 low-income customers now receiving bill reductions through a range of assistance schemes last year.
It notes existing schemes only have the potential to help less than half of those people struggling to pay and highlights that although average bill reductions can be as much as £271, some schemes are only helping customers save as little as £19.
It claims only Welsh Water, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities already use their own profits to reduce water poverty and calls on companies to do more – many existing schemes are subsidised by other consumers rather than paid for by suppliers themselves.
Andy White, Senior Policy Manager at CCWater, said: “Many customers still suffer in silence and sacrifice other essentials like food and heating in order to pay their water bill – no one should ever have to make that choice.
“Companies have the power to help many more struggling households by matching the generosity already being shown by other customers who are subsidising social tariffs.”
A Water UK spokesperson said: “Ensuring water bills are affordable, especially for the most vulnerable, is a priority for water companies.
“Bills have remained pretty much the same since 1994 in real terms and by 2025 there will have been a decade of real-terms reductions in bills – which currently average around £1 a day.”