Water bills are set to increase – but what is the true cost of wasted water?

09 February 2023 | GuidanceSmart Saving Water

Last week, it was announced that the average water bill in England and Wales is set to rise this April to £448 – a 7.5% increase.

According to Water UK, the average household water and sewerage bills in England and Wales will be £31 more expensive than last year, with regional differences meaning customers in some areas will face bills of over £500 a year.

This increase is due to a number of factors including inflation, increasing energy costs which have a direct impact on the cost of producing and delivering clean water to households, the need to invest in new and renewable sources of water and the rising cost of maintaining and improving the water infrastructure.

The true cost of wasted water

Whilst its irritating that water supply costs, and therefore our bills, are rising, it’s vital to recognise that the true cost of wasted water is much, much higher. 

Put simply, wasting water has a significant and negative impact on the environment because it contributes to water scarcity and strain on water resources. It also contributes to energy waste, as producing and distributing water requires energy.   

In addition, water waste can harm wildlife and ecosystems by altering the water levels and quality in rivers and lakes. Furthermore, the over use of groundwater resources can cause land subsidence and damage to infrastructure. Overall, therefore, conserving water is important for ensuring a sustainable and healthy environment.

So where is this water being wasted?

First of all, we’re all aware that water companies are reporting billions of litres of water lost every day through burst and cracked pipes and joints.  Despite this volume decreasing, it’s still a massive leakage problem.  Combined, water firms in England and Wales lost 1tn litres via leaky pipes in 2021 – the equivalent of 426,875 Olympic swimming pools or more than three and a half Lake Windermeres. 

However we, as consumers, also have a part to play in reducing water wastage.

Did you know that a typical family uses an average of 500 litres of water a day?

A study conducted in 2021 revealed that a single member of a household in the UK could use up to 152 litres of water a day, on average. Consider a household of 4 people, and this number increases up to an average of 500 litres per day.

Put in monetary terms, the average cost of supply per litre is between 0.2p and 0.5p per litre.  This may sound small but can equate to as much as £1,000 a year for the typical family.

The average water consumption of household appliances varies greatly, with some using significantly more than others. A full bath uses the largest amount of water by far, at approximately 80 litres. This is 30 litres more than the average washing machine cycle.  Meanwhile, a dishwasher users around ten litres of water. 

A typical shower uses on average 11 litres a minute, so a five minute shower every day is 55 litres.  This equates to 20,000 litres per year per person or 80,000 for a family of four.  That’s £400, without considering the additional heating cost.  And a toilet uses between 6 and 9 litres per flush. 

Small changes can make a big difference

Once we know how much water we are using, it’s then relatively easy to make small changes to our daily habits to reduce water and lower bills, such as taking shorter showers and only running the dishwasher or washing machine with a full load.  Read our home hacks on how to save water and reduce water bills here

But what about leaks?

So, this is where there are big water wastage numbers.  Let’s put aside the big cascading water leaks that gush through a property and cause significant damage, and look at the little, seemingly innocent leaks that the majority of households have experienced at one time or another.

A dripping tap could waste between 5000 and 6000 litres of water per year – enough to fill a paddling pool every week for the whole summer!  A leaky toilet valve wastes between 200 and 400 litres per day – that’s  between 73,000 and 146,000 litres per year.  Staggering isn’t it?  Fixing these ‘little’ problems would dwarf other water savings you would make by taking shorter showers or using the washing machine less often. 

How to detect these leaks

The easiest way is to install a smart meter, like Sonic.  Sonic was developed as a revolutionary system for protecting properties from damaging water leaks.  It detects leaks anywhere in a building, warns the householder via the handy companion app, and even shuts off the water supply to stop the problem fast. 

Around 2.5% of UK households make an escape of water claim each year with an average cost of  nearly £4,000, often with an excess of £500 – £1,000. Over ten years the likely cost is around £850 per property. 

Sonic has the added bonus of being able to relay real-time readings to make people immediately aware of how much water they are using.  It can work out which household appliances take the most water to run, helping to save money and stay in control of water bills. 

Three months after installation, Sonic users reported a 15% drop in average water usage – around £10/month (£120/year) saving on a typical water bill.

At the end of the day, knowledge is power.  By reviewing our water usage and knowing how much water we consume each month can help us identify areas where we can make changes.  This is always the first step towards reducing waste and saving money on water bills.

Pulling together to save water

Wasting water can have a significant impact on both climate sustainability and our pockets. It’s clear that we all need to be cleverer when it comes to saving water, lowering water bills and reducing environmental impact – and that includes water companies, consumers and corporates that use water in their everyday manufacturing processes.