Understanding your Business Water Bills 101

Your water bill is made up of different elements: Water and sewerage charges, plus in some case other, usually infrastructure related charges. You can choose to receive water from your existing water supplier, or from one of the other licensed provider in the market.

Water and sewerage charges change every year and depend on your region and your chosen water company. You receive two different bills if your water service and your sewerage service are supplied by two different company.

Metered vs Unmetered Water Charges

Metered Water Charges

If you have a water meter installed, your bill is calculated based on either an “estimated”, “actual” or “read” water consumption. Your bill will include two charges:

  • A fixed standing charge which is based on the size of your water meter and covers readings and the overall general maintenance of your meter.
  • A variable volumetric charge which is based on the volume of water you use.

The industry regulation authority Ofwat sets price limits to charges for consumptions below 50 MI to protect small users. Intermediate and large user can opt for separate non-standard tariffs, or alternative tariffs that allow them to match their supply with their seasonal or daily demand.

There are also tariffs options for those users that can withstand temporary interruptions in their water supply, can use water that is unsuitable for drinking for their industrial processes, or have access to their own water sources.

Unmetered Water Charges

While most non-domestic properties are metered, a small number of business customers don’t have a water meter installed. Since there is no way of knowing for certain how much water is consumed at the property, the water consumption is not taken into consideration. Just like for unmetered domestic customers, their bill is composed of:

  • A fixed charge based on the rateable value of the property
  • A fixed “standing charge” to cover the customer-related costs of supply, e.g. billing and customer servicey

This is not necessarily the most recent rateable value that is used to calculate your 2017 business rates. Suppliers do usually not automatically adjust the rateable value in their system unless prompted by a material change in your building, or at the point of switching to a new supplier.

If your premise has a high rateable value and your business has a relatively low water consumption, you should make sure to install a water meter since for this combination, unmetered charges are usually higher than metered charges.

Another advantage on having an installed meter is that it can allow you to detect leaks and find them a lot quicker than normal. The first way to tell if your meter has a leak is if your bill is considerably higher while your consumption has either stayed the same or even decreased.

Sewerage Charges

Your water bill will also contain charges for sewerage services. Sewerage services include the collecting and treating of:

  • surface water drainage, for rainwater that drains from your property into the public sewer
  • highway drainage, for water that runs off roads and pavements into the public sewer
  • trade effluent, for any waste water or other liquid used for a business or industrial purpose that you discharge; e.g. detergents, food waste, chemicals
  • foul sewage, for any “domestic” waste water that you discharge; e.g. sewage or waste water from sinks or toilets

For some companies, the different components are combined for billing purposes.

If you can prove that you do not make use of any of these services other than highway drainage, this should be represented in lower charges.

General advice

A delay of your bill does not exempt you from paying for the water services you use. If you are not receiving bills on a regular basis, make sure to contact your water supplier. If you do not receive a bill for some time, the next bill will cover a longer period of time and therefore require you to pay a large sum at once.

Water companies can disconnect non-domestic customers that do not pay their water bills. If you are unable to pay your bills, do not simply ignore them but get in touch with your supplier to discuss alternative payment plans.

If you are having trouble understanding your water bill and are looking for ways to reduce it, please get in touch with us!

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