• As Ofwat reveals average water bill decreases of 5% over the next five years, by taking inflation into account, the average water customer could still see their bill increase by 5 to 401 next April.

  • Consumers are trapped in a postcode lottery with no option to switch from their current supplier.

  • Switching to a water meter could save consumers around 100 a year, but for many the switch has been a costly decision, with 1.4 million of those with meters splashing out 140 million more a year.

  • In fact, less than half (42%) of those that have made the move to a meter are saving money.

  • Industry analysis reveals that one in three (38%) water suppliers fail to offer consumers consumption calculators on their website, just over a quarter of those that do (27%) link to this from their home page.

Following today's announcement from Ofwat, which unveils revised water prices for households across the UK which will be effective from 1 April 2015 until 2020, new industry analysis released today from price comparison website money.co.uk, reveals that suppliers may not be offering consumers the necessary tools to make informed decisions around how they want to pay water bills.

In fact, more than a third (38%) of the 24 providers researched do not have water consumption calculators on their websites. This is a tool which enables consumers to calculate if it is likely to be cheaper to pay for their water via the traditional 'rateable' system or switch to a water meter. More disappointingly, just 27% of suppliers that do actually link to these calculators from their homepage.

This is a great disappointment as further research reveals that over half of consumers (54%) would like to see calculators on all water providers' websites. Unlike gas and electricity, water is the one utility you cannot switch providers for, the cost is a postcode lottery based on the area you live in and the rateable value of your property.

This makes water meters the only possible solution for consumers who want to take control of their bills and see if they can save money.

Of those that have taken the leap and switched to a water meter, 14% claim they are actually 100 a year worse off on average. With more than 10 million households in the UK already on water meters, this means 1.4 million of this group are paying around 140 million more a year than they were on 'rateable bills'.

However, this figure could be far higher as more than one in three (34%) are oblivious to the financial impact of the installation as they haven't compared their current payments against historical bills.

Amongst those that have a meter, just 12% researched the likely impact on their water bills in advance so this could be a contributing factor as to why so many households ended up paying more.

Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief of money.co.uk, comments:

"There's no definitive way to know if a water meter will save you money - you need to trial it to find out. However, with most suppliers allowing just 12 months to decide if you want to keep a meter or not, many consumers will miss this window and could end up with higher bills forever.

"We would really like providers to make the water meter 'cooling off' period longer and clearer to enable people to make informed decisions. Providers are only obliged to read water meters every 12 months, but for some this can be as long as two years on estimated bills. Whilst water meter customers can submit their own readings this is not something consumers tend to do."

Providers failing to offer consumers more information could explain why almost three quarters (72%) of the 16 million households that do not have a water meter do not know if it would save them money so could be missing out on a saving of 100 a year.

Almost one in five (19%) believe it would cost them more. The research, which was commissioned by money.co.uk and conducted by OnePoll, explores the opinions of 750 consumers that currently have a water meter and 750 that do not across 24 of the UK's major water suppliers.

Hannah Maundrell continues:

"Whilst today's announcement is great news with many water companies actually reducing water bills, the news could be slightly misleading for consumers. The 5% fall over the next five years doesn't take inflation into account so in real terms the average consumer could see their water bill increase by 5 from 396 to 401 next April.

"Water suppliers are in a unique situation as they do not have to compete for business in the way the other utility providers do. In fact, the only thing they can offer consumers to help them save money is a water meter.

"However, industry practice around helping people make informed decisions is pretty poor to say the least, hence why so many people take the leap only to find out it costs them more. It seems there is no way for consumers to find out their exact level of usage if they don't have a meter, which feels like a flaw in itself.

"Just two out of three suppliers offer water usage calculators on their websites, but many are tucked away and cannot be found easily. We would like all water providers to use one industry regulated calculator to ensure all consumers make the right decision."

Maundrell's Meter Tips - The Top Ten

  1. Unlike gas and electricity, water is the only utility you cannot switch as providers are allocated regionally. This leaves consumers with two options; rateable bills or water meters.

  2. If you're living in one of the 16 million+ homes in the UK that still pays a 'rateable bill', it's really important to do your homework before you request a water meter to ensure you will actually save money.

  3. The Consumer Council for Water has a calculator to help you work out your individual consumption costs. For a more accurate comparison you can call your water company and ask for its estimation as to whether or not you should move to a meter.

  4. Almost two thirds (64%) of those with water meters have never provided their own meter readings which means their bills could be based on estimates. If you're on a meter it's a good idea to submit an accurate reading before your bi-annual bill so you only pay for the water you have used. Consumers should be aware than any submission of a water meter reading will trigger a bill.

  5. If you're on a rateable bill the cost of your annual water bill is not fixed for life. Your water supplier will review its pricing every April and of those that made hikes this year some were as high as 5% so make sure you budget for any increase.

  6. Since 1990, all new homes have been fitted with water meters so this may be something you should consider when you are moving house. Some water companies could insist on a compulsory switch regardless of the age of the property.

  7. Overall, if a water meter has been installed at a property for more than 12 months your supplier will not remove it. If you choose to have a water meter installed you generally have 12 months after installation to change your mind (or one month after your second bill arrives - whichever is later). It's important to monitor your bills and ask to switch back before this deadline if you're paying more.

  8. In Scotland it's not free to have a water meter installed and it can be quite expensive. In this instance, unless you're certain you will make significant savings, you should stick to rateable payments.

  9. If you use large amounts of water for things such as swimming pools, power showers, sprinklers, or you live in a water-stressed area, a compulsory meter is likely to be fitted by your supplier.

  10. Save Water, Save Money collates details of all the water saving freebies available from each supplier, have a look and see what's on offer from yours. money.co.uk also provides a water saving consumer guide.