The Wessex Scene gives you three top tips so you don’t have to splash out on your new water meter
For the full story on mandatory water meters being installed in all Southampton homes, click here.
The old system was based – to put it crudely – on how much your house was worth. This benefited students as we tend to live in cheap(ish) properties considering the number of occupants we share the bill with.
Once your water meter is installed, the amount you pay is entirely down to the amount you use. Suddenly having all those housemates isn’t so handy. Bills could quite feasibly increase by more than £100 over the year.
To their credit Southern Water have taken into account that some households will be badly, and suddenly, punished. They’re therefore offering a couple of alternative tariffs for the next few years. Note that these are not automatically assigned: you must opt in to them.
The Changeover Tariff
Any increase in price is phased in gradually.
During your first 12 months after installation, only a third of the charge is based on the meter with two thirds based on the old rateable-value-of-your-property system.
The next year (if you’re still at university and living in the same house), two thirds of the charge is based on the meter with the remaining third based on the old system.
By the third year (what are you doing… Medicine??), the whole of the charge is meter-based.
To opt on: You can move on to the Changeover Tariff any time from when you are switched to metered charges, which is usually three months after the meter is installed. You’ll be sent a letter of notification to tell you you’re on metered charges. When you get this, use the contact details on the letter and ask to be put on to the Changeover Tariff. You’ve actually got two years from being switched to metered charges to make this change but if you wait that long, you’re sort of defeating the point.
The Support Tariff
This one is only for those who have “genuine affordability issues”. If you shop at Waitrose, stop reading now.
To get on to the Support Tariff you’ve got to contact Southern Water and agree to a free Home Saver Check. This means they send some people over to your house who will install free water saving devices.
You’ll then be offered a benefits referral service by an independent company which also includes a review of income and expenditure. This is to assess to what extent you can afford metered bills.
It looks as if most households face a choice: resign themselves to consuming lots of water and move to the Changeover Tariff to lessen the pain; or make reductions in water usage and potentially pay less than ever for water on the meter.
If you are deemed to be eligible for the Support Tariff, your bill will be capped at the equivalent rate of the rateable value bill: you’ll pay under the old method.
Reducing your water bill
There is, as a certain High Street Bank say, another way. The whole point in these water meters being installed in the first place was to encourage us to reduce our consumption of the clear stuff. You could give that a go.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been told the ways you can use less water and the Wessex Scene doesn’t want to patronise you.
But hey ho, we can’t all get what we want. Here’s a few you might not have thought of:
- Only use the washing machine when full. Washing in the sink actually isn’t that frugal, so don’t feel guilty about switching on the machine – but cram all the dishes in first.
- Keep drinking water in the fridge. Otherwise you find yourself having to run the taps for 20 seconds so the water gets cold enough to drink.
- Leave a brick in the toilet. Not like that.
- Keep showers at a low pressure, and obviously avoid baths.
- Change your toilet flapper every year. No seriously, google it: toilet flappers genuinely exist and they can really make a difference.
- Insulate your water pipes with foam. Your showers heat up quicker and you save energy as well.