How to cut your water bills

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With water bills rising, here are some tips to cut your costs - and do your bit for the environment.

The first thing you can do is check if you would save money by having a meter fitted. A single person living alone might save around £100 a year by having a meter installed, says the Consumer Council for Water.

A rough rule is that if there are fewer than three or four people in a home you should save money if you're reasonably careful with your water usage. A calculator to help customers work out how much you would pay is available on the Consumer Council for Water's website.

Water companies install meters for free and customers can switch back to the unmetered charge within 12 months if they are unhappy with the change. If a meter cannot be fitted, companies can offer an alternative unmeasured tariff which may be lower than the current bill. (For example, Thames Water were unable to fit a meter in my flat but they subsequently lowered my bills as there are only two of us.)

You can take simple steps to avoid wasting water. Fixing dripping taps by replacing worn washers, installing a water saving device in toilets or a water efficient shower head, taking showers rather than baths (although a power shower can use more water than a bath!) and collecting rainwater for use in the garden are all great ways to be more water efficient.

Around a quarter of a household's energy bill comes from heating water - in baths or showers, or for washing clothes or dishes. So if you cut your use of water you will also see your energy bills fall.

Customers may also be able to save money by taking a closer look at their water bills, says the Consumer Council for Water. Those with a soakaway which drains water into the ground rather than to the public sewerage system can apply to their local water company for surface water charges to be removed. This would save customers around £30 a year. Similarly customers with a septic tank should not be paying foul sewerage charges.

Here are some other tips:
  • Use a bowl in the sink when washing fruit, vegetables or dishes and water your plants with the waste water. When washing up, also use a bowl instead of leaving the tap on.
  • Don't leave the tap running when brushing your teeth. Use the plug in the washbasin when shaving.
  • Fit a Save-a-Flush device and you could save a litre each time you flush
  • Wait until you have a full load before using your washing machine or your dishwasher.
  • Use a watering can in the garden instead of a sprinkler or a hosepipe.
  • Think about fitting a water butt to collect rainwater off your roof. Water butts usually store about 200 litres.
  • Boil only the amount of water you need in the kettle when you fancy a cuppa.

A change of habits can make a huge difference: A bath uses 80 litres of water while a shower usually uses just 30; brushing your teeth with the tap running uses 10 litres, which is more than flushing the toilet (9 litres).

A dishwasher uses 35 litres, but if you are prepared to do the job by hand you'll use only 6 litres. A typical washing machine uses 80 litres, but the latest water-efficient models need 25 litres less to clean your clothes.

But watering the garden with a sprinkler or hosepipe left running uses the most water – 450 litres in just one hour!
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