Understanding water budgets
Water rates tend to be seen as a fixed cost. Because water isn’t imported like gas and electricity, there are fewer price fluctuations. Water doesn’t make the news in the same way as electricity costs do, soaring when oil prices rise. With so many other things to worry about, it can be easy to ignore your water bill.
There’s no reason to be complacent, though. Your bills might be steady, but there could still be room to save, or potential for them to increase significantly in future if something changes.
If you’re using water as part of your business’s operations, it’s vital to understand how you’re being billed, and what you’re paying for. It’s not just the local car wash who benefit from understanding their water usage, either. Even if your business only uses water to provide washing and drinks facilities for your employees, it’s worth understanding how your billing works to make sure it’s accurate, and that your costs are reasonable for your level of usage.
What does my business’s water bill cover?
Your business’s water bill actually covers a number of different services and charges. The main ones include:
Perhaps obviously, the main item on your water bill is a charge for the amount of mains water your business uses. The vast majority of business premises have a water meter, so you’ll be billed based on regular meter readings, or estimations if your water provider is unable to access your meter.
Your water tariff will include a standing charge, plus a rate for the volume of water which passes through your water meter. Your tariff might vary depending on your usage. For example, if your business uses a very large amount of water (for example, a manufacturing plant using water in the production process), you might be offered a preferential rate.
A charge for collecting and treating “foul sewerage”. This is the waste water that enters the network via drains from your premises, for example from toilets or sinks.
For most businesses, waste water charges are linked to water usage, but again, they can vary for larger businesses. Sewerage charges also don’t cover waste water containing high levels of certain dangerous contaminants, like oil, chemicals or detergents. These are charged for separately, as “trade effluent”.
Sewerage and drainage
A charge for collecting and treating the rainwater which drains off your property back into the water network. This also includes a fixed contribution for maintaining drainage on public roads.
Sewerage and drainage charges are calculated based on the volume of water which drains from your premises into the sewer system. Most businesses are charged based on standard assumptions. However, businesses can apply to calculate this differently, for example if they collect rainwater landing on their property and this doesn’t get returned to the sewer.
If your business needs to put harmful waste into the water system which requires special treatment, for example oils, food waste, heavy metals, or other chemicals, you’ll pay a separate charge for trade effluent. Businesses which discharge trade effluent must apply to their water provider, and agree a limit for the level of harmful materials they will permit them to return to the network.
The costs for trade effluent vary depending on the type of contaminant, its strength or concentration, and the quantity which is discharged into the water network. To keep things consistent, water companies calculate this using a standard method called the Mogden Formula. For businesses discharging high levels of trade effluent, this is sometimes measured using a dedicated meter on the waste pipe for more accurate billing.
Take Control of Your Water Usage
Total Water Solutions work in partnership with you to understand your business’s water costs in detail.
Our water audits can help you understand your business’s water usage, benchmarked against similar companies, and identify areas of potential improvement to help you improve efficiency and save money. Find out more…
Resources – learn more
To learn more about how your water bill works and what charges apply to your business, check the following resources:
OFWAT is the official regulator for the water sector in England and Wales. Their website has a dedicated section for businesses, with information and advice.
The Consumer Council for Water
The Consumer Council for Water is an independent public organisation representing water customers in England and Wales. They provide advice and support to consumers and businesses on their water and sewerage bills.
Waterwise is a not-for-profit organisation which promotes water efficiency, and conducts research and campaigns to encourage greater efficiency in water usage.
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