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 water bill is one of the easiest bills to deal with. And as water's essential to good hygiene and general survival, it should be one of the first things you sort when moving into a new house.
Nothing is as critical as water, so naturally you'll 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 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 on this page?
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 provider and get a better deal.
That said, there are two different ways of paying for your water usage, and the method you use will have an impact on the price.
Ways your water bill is worked out
Water meters look pretty similar to an electricity or gas meter, and you'll either find it inside the building where a water mains is (under the sink, for instance), 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 normally take a reading twice a year and charge you accordingly.
Water companies are normally 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.
The average water bill for homes in England and Wales on a standard tariff works out at £405/year.
If you're on a standard tariff, you'll get billed a fixed amount depending on the value of your property.
If you're living in Scotland, your average water bill will be £363. 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, meaning unless you think you'll be using much less water than the standard rate, this option won't work out any cheaper.
How to set up your water bill
Setting up your water bill shouldn't be too hard. 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 4 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. This can be done online or over the phone, but we'd definitely recommend doing this on the first day you move in. If you're unsure who supplies the water in your corner of the globe, use this handy map to find out.
- On a meter? Check it! – 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 paying the standard tariff, you'll probably end up forking out either monthly or quarterly. For those on a meter, it'll probably be every six months (this can vary from supplier to supplier though). You should also always make sure you take a meter reading when you move out – again, so you won't be overcharged. For example, if you're charged every six months but only live in the property for nine, it's up to you to can prove it. It's true that you may initially be charged for the full six months as opposed to three, but you will be able to get a full refund.
- Make sure everyone's name is on the bill – Make sure you put everyone's name on the bill, even if just one of you is in charge of paying. That way, you'll all be responsible if you fall behind on payments, rather than one person having to take responsibility. For more tips on how to split your household bills, read this guide.
Tips for saving water
If you're on a meter then saving water has the added benefit of saving money, too. However, even on a standard tariff you should be keen to save water even if you're on the standard tariff can help the planet... yay!
No matter how much you love your hot showers in the morning, or your multiple cups of tea throughout the day, nobody wants to be paying out for a shedload of water – or wasting it!
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 flatmates (if you're comfortable doing that, of course).
Nowadays you can wash lights and darks together at 30°C without an issue (although you should check that detergent supports washing at these temperatures first – most do, but it's better to be safe than sorry!), so there's no excuse not to chuck them all in at once.
The only exception to this rule would be that you shouldn't wash new dark clothes with lights, as there's a chance the dye could run on the first few washes.
Oh, and 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!
Use a dishwasher instead of washing up
As counter-intuitive as it may sound, a dishwasher is actually more environmentally friendly than washing up by hand. Lazy people, rejoice!
That's right – dishwashers use less water and often less energy than doing the washing up. In fact, it's estimated that some modern dishwashers could over 22,700 litres less water every year compared to washing up!
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'll 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 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 to make sure you never need to waste water in order to get the refreshment you need!
And if you don't have a suitable vessel for your water, we're big fans of this jug. It's big enough not to need constantly refilling (unlike a most water filter jugs!), and it fits 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.
So 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 anything else you care to throw away, don't belong in the toilet.
Not only are most of these things harmful to the environment if you flush them down, but you'll be wasting shedloads of water every time you hit the 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.
Don't leave the taps running
Whenever you're using water to brush your teeth or wash your face, turn the tap off during the intervals where you don't actually need the water to be running.
This one is especially relevant when you're brushing your teeth. You don't need to the water to be particularly cold or hot, so there really is no reason at all to keep the tap running!
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 being good to the environment is more important sometimes!
Examples of these would be extensions for your tap that reduce water flow, shower heads 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
The average UK toilet uses 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!