11 ways to save money on water bills
Unless you're set on becoming the world's smelliest (and thirstiest) student, you'll need water. The bad news is, it's expensive. The good news is, we're here to help!
Your student water bill is one of the easiest bills to deal with. And as water is essential to good hygiene and general survival, it should be one of the first things you sort out when moving into a new house.
Nothing is as critical as water, so you'll naturally want to make sure you're spending as little as possible on getting it into your household pipes. Similarly, you'll want to use as little water as possible in order to cut your living costs (and do your bit to save the planet).
We've come up with a simple guide to make sure you get everything tickety-boo as soon as possible, as well as a list of money-saving tricks that could genuinely save you £100s.
What's in this guide?
How is your water bill calculated?
One of the most important things to know about water bills is that each area of the country is covered by one supplier only (you can find out which one covers your area here).
This means that, unlike with energy bills for example, there's no way to switch providers and get a better deal.
That said, there are two different ways of paying for your water usage, and the method you use will impact the price.
Ways your water bill is worked out
Water meters look pretty similar to electricity and gas meters, and you'll either find them inside the building where a water mains is (e.g. under the sink), or just outside the building near outdoor pipes (or where you can see a water mains on the ground).
The meter will measure how much water you use, and your local supplier will likely take a reading twice a year and charge you accordingly.
Water companies are usually happy to fit a meter free of charge, so if you do think it would work for you, it might be worth having a chat with your landlord.
If your water bills are unmetered (i.e. on a standard tariff), you'll get billed a fixed amount depending on the value of your property.
In England and Wales, the average annual water bill is £415, which works out as around £1.13 per day.
If you're living in Scotland, your average water bill will be £369. You'll pay a standard water charge that's automatically included in your council tax bill, unless you decide you'd prefer to have a meter fitted instead.
If you choose to have a water meter installed, you'll need to arrange this with Scottish Water directly and they'll bill you separately from your council tax.
It's worth knowing that Scottish Water do charge a service and installation fee, so unless you think you'll be using much less water than the standard rate, it's unlikely that this option will work out as significantly cheaper.
How to set up your water bill
Setting up your water bill is pretty straightforward when you know how. After all, there's no competition involved when it comes to prices, so you won't have to spend hours tracking down the best offers as you do with gas, electricity and broadband bills.
Here's how to set up paying your water bills in four easy steps:
- Find your supplier – Once you've sussed out what kind of tariff you're on, all you have to do is find out who your local water supplier is and get in touch online or over the phone. We'd recommend doing this on the first day you move in
- If you're on a water meter, check it ASAP – For those paying by meter, make sure you take a reading as soon as you move in. You don't want to be charged for water you didn't use
- Know your payment dates – If you're on a standard tariff, you'll probably need to pay either monthly or quarterly. For those on a meter, it'll probably be every six months but this can vary from supplier to supplier. You should also take a meter reading when you move out to avoid being charged for water used by the tenants after you
- Make sure everyone's name is on the bill – Even if just one of you is in charge of paying the water bills, having all of your housemates' names on the bill means you'll each be responsible if you fall behind on payments, rather than one person having to take responsibility. We've got more tips on how to split your household bills in our guide.
How to save money on your water bill
These are the best ways to reduce your water bills:
Never boil more water than you need
A good old brew tends to solve everything, but overfilling the kettle can cause some serious wastage.
Only fill the kettle with just enough water for what you'll actually need – not only will this save water, but electricity and time too.
Only use your washing machine when it's full
Cut down on your water consumption by increasing your wash loads – either by waiting for your dirty laundry pile to grow, or sharing a load with your housemates (if you're comfortable doing that, of course).
Even if your washing machine has a half load button, it will still use over half the amount of water used in a full load – so fill it up!
As a general rule, you can wash lights and darks together at 30°C as long as your detergent supports washes at this temperature, so there's no excuse not to chuck them all in at once.
Just bear in mind that you shouldn't wash new dark clothes with lights as the dye might run on the first few washes. And, for things like underwear, towels and bedding, it's best to wash them at higher temperatures to make sure they're sanitised.
Use a dishwasher instead of washing up
Lazy people, rejoice! It's thought that energy-efficient dishwashers generally use less water to clean your dishes than hand-washing.
However, as with your washing machine, you should only use your dishwasher if it's full. If you run the dishwasher while it's not full, you can end up using more water and more energy than if you'd washed up by hand.
Of course, not every student house is blessed with a dishwasher. If you're not one of the lucky ones, this next tip is for you...
Use a washing up bowl
If you don't have a dishwasher in your student house, or the dishes have been blemished with stains too tough for a machine to tackle, you'll need to wash up by hand. If so, we recommend using a washing up bowl rather than washing straight in the basin.
Washing up bowls are, by their nature, smaller than the sink itself – and a smaller container means less water is required to fill it up.
What's more, there should be a little gap between the edge of the bowl and the edge of the sink – perfect for rinsing the suds off your dishes without tampering with the warm soapy water in the bowl.
Store cold water in the fridge
You know when you go to get a drink of water, but when you first run the tap it's not quite as cold as you'd have wanted? Over the course of a year, think about how much water you waste by waiting for the water to turn cold.
Instead, have a jug of water in the fridge at all times – this way, you'll be able to avoid wasting water each time you have a drink.
And if you don't have a suitable vessel for your water, we're big fans of this jug. It's big enough that you won't need to constantly refill it (unlike most water filter jugs), and it should fit perfectly in the door of your fridge.
Have shorter showers
In theory, a shower should use up less water than a bath. But this doesn't apply if you tend to stand about in the shower long enough to come out looking like a shrivelled up prune.
A 15-minute shower will use almost the same amount of water as a bath, and this almost doubles if you're using a power shower – scrub up fast!
Don't use the toilet as a bin
We've probably all been guilty of this at some point, but tissues, face wipes and any other things you care to throw away, do not belong in the toilet.
Not only are most of these things harmful to the environment if you put them down the loo, but you'll be wasting shedloads of water every time you hit flush. What's more, many of these things aren't flushable anyway, meaning they'll eventually clog up the pipes somewhere along the line.
We're willing to bet you've probably got a perfectly functioning bin anyway, so use it!
Replace leaky taps
If your tap is dripping endlessly, ask your landlord to fix it ASAP.
Not only will the sound of a leaky tap drive you up the wall, but it'll also be wasting an astounding amount of water, which can of course equate to big bucks being added to your bill.
Turn off the taps when brushing your teeth
Whenever you're brushing your teeth, turn the tap off during the intervals where you don't need the water to be running.
You don't need the water to be particularly cold or hot, so there really is no reason at all to keep the tap on – turning off the taps whenever possible is a small but effective way of saving money on water.
Bag water-saving freebies
This might not seem economical to water suppliers, but loads of companies offer water-saving freebies for you to use in your house. It means they end up making less money from you, but we're guessing they know that being good to the environment is more important sometimes!
Examples of these would be extensions for your tap that reduce water flow, showerheads that distribute the flow more efficiently and timers you can keep in your shower to make you don't daydream yourself through 20 minutes.
Grab your water-saving freebies here.
Reduce your flush
Toilets without dual flush settings (which let you choose how much water to flush) use an average of about 13 litres of water for every single flush. Crazy!
One way to reduce the amount of water used is to put a brick in your toilet cistern – this will reduce the amount of water in each flush without affecting any of the pressure.
Otherwise, the simple solution would be of course to flush less.
The motto 'if it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down' might instantly make you want to vom, but it could save you cash. Nonetheless, make sure all flatmates are in agreement before you start implementing this method.
Check out our guide to student bills for more advice on how to get the best deals, how to set up each account, and how to split the payments.