Time to pay your water bills
The water minister Richard Benyon has today (January 23) vowed to tackle bad debt in the water industry.
Unsurprisingly, most of this 'bad debt' comes from the rental market where tenants are more likely to move around, leaving in some cases, a trail of unpaid bills. This unfortunately pushes up water bill prices for customers who pay their bills and is an area the Government wants to clamp down on.
Presently, it is relatively easy for water consumers to leave a property and never settle their outstanding water bills, which may or may not be an honest mistake. They then, please excuse the pun, all too often sink without a trace, leaving water companies to pass on the debt to other customers.
This bad practice is largely the fault of a system, which unlike electricity and gas bills, has no requirement on the owners of the building to provide information on the identity of the occupier to the water company. As a result, it is surprisingly easy for water users' identities to remain a mystery to water suppliers when they move on.
According to water industry figures, the level of outstanding revenue from domestic water customers in the UK hit more than £1.6bn in 2010-11, forcing water companies to write-off approximately £328m of household debt.
Perhaps, the reason some tenants move homes without settling their water bills can be partly attributed to the notion that water is a human right and a free resource. While I agree everyone should have access to clean drinking water and enough to live comfortably, many people do still waste it without thinking.
Activities such as taking a long shower, washing the car and watering the garden all use a lot of water and can be carried out in a way that uses less water. While I don't want, nor can afford, to pay higher water bills, you could argue water is too cheap a resource and is being made cheaper by the fact it is all too easy to get away without even paying for the water we have used!
'Luckily', at my property the boiler is extremely temperamental so shower time is restricted to a maximum of three minutes - any longer and icy cold or boiling hot water is blasted out. Now there's an incentive to take shorter showers!
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