The reason, they say, is the increasing scarcity of water due to climate change and increased consumer demand.

This has led to water utility companies moving away from flat rate fees to water metering and differential pricing.

This, the report says, leads inevitably to climbing prices for customers. It warns that this could create affordability problems for low-income households and could lead to ‘water poverty’, which they define as where a household spends 3% or more of their income on water bills.

The researchers estimate that four million households are currently ‘water poor’ and this situation is likely to worsen as water bills are set to rise 5% per year for some customers.

The problem is particularly acute in the south-west of England where bills are on average 43% higher than the rest of the country.

The report concludes that decision-makers need to aim for ‘affordable water efficiency’. It says the current schemes to support vulnerable households may help to improve water efficiency but not all households are eligible and drop-out rates can be high because of complex renewal processes.

JRF programme manager, Josh Stott, said: “Climate change and how we adapt to it will impact upon disadvantaged groups in different ways.

“This report highlights the need for policy makers and agencies to consider these social justice issues when preparing and building resilience to climate change, to improve the outcomes for vulnerable people.”

You can read the whole report on the JRF website.

Alison Brown

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie