Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive at debt charity Money Advice Trust, said: “The number of people calling us for help with water debts has been sharply increasing over the last few years.
"Paying water bills is becoming increasingly difficult for many households across the country, and it doesn’t seem to be a problem that will go away any time soon.
“Indeed, planned price rises will most likely make the problem even worse. While the price rises may be in line with inflation, they are not in line with any growth in earnings, meaning water bills will take up more and more of the money we bring in.”
The average household water and sewerage bill will increase by 5.7% from April, according to the water regulator Ofwat, taking the average annual bill in 2012/13 to £376.
Some homes will see much larger rises depending on which provider they are with. For example, Southern Water is hiking water and sewerage bills by 8.6%, while Dwr Cymru customers will see a much smaller increase of 3.8%.
Here, we take a look at what you can do about reducing your water bills and how you can cut some of your other living costs…
Can I switch water suppliers to find a cheaper deal?
Unfortunately, you cannot switch water provider as the market has not been opened up to competition. However, you may want to look into whether installing a water meter could save you money.
That means your bill will depend on how much water you use, rather than the usual system, where bills are based on your home’s ‘rateable value’.
The ‘rateable value’ is an assessment of the annual rental value of a property made by the Local Authority. To find out whether you might better off with a meter, ask your water company to provide you with its ‘water meter calculator’.
As a usual general rule, the more people living in your house, the more likely it is that you will be better off sticking to the usual bill system. However, if there are only one or two people living in your property, and your water use is minimal, the chances are you might find it cheaper to use a meter.
How can I keep other utility bills down?
Make sure you are on the most competitive energy tariff possible. You can compare the different deals that are available using MoneySupermarket’s energy channel. Recent research by MoneySupermarket found that across Britain, households who have never switched provider could save an impressive £282 a year on average if they moved from the original (incumbent) provider's standard tariff and opted for the best value deal.
If all the households which are yet to change from their incumbent provider moved to the best possible deal, the nation could collectively save £3.5billion on its energy bills.
First Utility’s iSave v9 product is currently the best value tariff across all 14 UK regions, costing a typical dual fuel gas and electricity customer £1,005 a year.
Clare Francis, site editor at MoneySupermarket said: "Recent price cuts are a token gesture from some of the energy firms, which when you look at the finer detail, will have minimal impact.
"The easiest way for individuals to reduce their energy bills is to take advantage of one of the cheap online tariffs available - the savings to be made are significant."
What about other living costs?
Food bills are, for most people, one of the biggest monthly outgoings, so look at ways in which you can reduce the amount you spend. Try writing a meal plan every week to cut down on food wastage.
You can also reduce your weekly food bills by changing where you shop. The website mysupermarket.com is worth a look, as it shows you exactly how much your regular shop would cost at different supermarkets.
That means you can make sure you’re getting the best prices for your particular basket of items. Bulk-buying can also result in savings, and many supermarkets frequently run ‘buy one get one free’ or BOGOF offers, so keep your eyes peeled for any discounts or deals you might be able to take advantage of.
What are the best ways to reduce petrol bills?
At the turn of the century petrol prices were about 77p per litre – but they have nearly doubled in just 11 years and the trend is set to continue.
Recent research by insurer Hastings Direct found more then three quarters of motorists say that the rising costs have affected how frequently they drive, while 1% of those questioned said they have given up their cars completely.
The website petrolprices.com can help you find where the cheapest fuel is in your area.
Driving more efficiently will be good for your wallet, so try to accelerate smoothly and keep unnecessary gear changes to a minimum. You should keep your car as light as possible too, for example by removing your roof box when not in use, to help reduce drag.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.