Providing more water bill support as cost of living crisis worsens

Tens of thousands more people in the west will receive help with their water bill after Wessex Water expanded its affordability offering to support those struggling with the cost of living crisis.

The company is already helping 54,000 customers with their water bill through a range of schemes to ensure water and sewerage services are affordable.

Now it is widening support with a further 83,000 customers in financial difficulty being fast tracked onto schemes. And it’s calling on Government to help enable thousands of low-income pensioners be auto-enrolled onto a 20% discount scheme.

Wessex Water will also be increasing funding to debt advice agencies which the company works with to develop its financial support packages.

Sue Lindsay, Director of Customer Policy and Engagement, said: “For most customers our charges are a small part of their household expenditure, but some customers find it difficult and with the growing cost of living, this is becoming increasingly acute.

“Over the years, working with special debt advice agencies, we have developed a range of financial support packages to help customers who struggle to pay their bills. Customers on the lowest incomes benefit from discounts of as much as 90% on their bill.

“The new measures we’re putting in place will provide essential support for those customers who are in financial distress and help ensure water and sewerage services are affordable for all.”

Investment to tackle storm overflows

The announcement of Wessex Water’s affordability support comes as the company published its annual report, which shows the company continues to perform highly on outcomes for customers, communities and the environment.

With there being much focus on the poor state of water quality in UK rivers and, in particular, the contribution from water company storm overflow discharges, Wessex Water is committed to ensuring it is doing its bit to do even more.

Chief Executive Colin Skellett said: “Storm overflows are a legacy from the past to protect properties from flooding, but have no place in the 21st century drainage system.

“We have set out plans to progressively eliminate overflows, starting with those that discharge most frequently and those that have any environmental impact. That work is already underway with more than £3 million being invested every month.”

Actions being taken by Wessex Water as part of the Storm Overflows Improvement Plan include:

Sewage treatment upgrades at 42 water recycling centres to increase capacity and with more nature-based, low carbon methods introduced.

A 25% reduction in the number of hours of storm overflow discharges by 2025.

Increased environmental and public health monitoring at key locations.

Use of artificial intelligence to manage sewerage network and provide real time bathing water information.

Wessex Water is also calling on government support in the form of powers for water companies to stop new developments being connected to combined sewers and to disconnect surface water where possible.

Meanwhile to improve the environmental status of all rivers in the region in line with the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and the Environment Act, it is supporting others to reduce the impacts they have, by acting as a convener and leader of catchment partnerships and markets, helping different parties to work together to the greatest effect.

Strong industry-leading performance

Wessex Water’s performance for 2021-22 showed it had its best ever year for compliance with drinking water standards and the length of time to deal with unplanned interruptions to supply fell to less than half the sector average.

The company topped Ofwat’s customer experience league table demonstrating high standards of customer service; beat targets for sewer flooding and leakage reducing the rate by a further two million litres a day; achieved 100% compliance this year on discharges to the water environment from water recycling centres; and saw a reduction in pollution incidents.

Financial results for 2021-22 showed profit before tax fell from £82.1m last year to £68.5m this year due to the challenges from increased labour, power and chemical costs.


Read Wessex Water's full Annual Review Summary 2022