HOUSEHOLDS in the south will be hit by the biggest increase in water and sewerage bills this year, figures released today show.

Average bills for 2013/14 for Southern Water customers will see the cost of water and sewerage rising £23 to £449 – a rise of 5.3 per cent.

That comes in above the national average of an increase of 3.5 per cent, or about £13.

The bill changes for this year will come into effect on 1 April 2013 and apply until 31 March 2014. According to Southern Water the increases will pay for a £400m investment programme and also will also pay for environmental projects that will meet its obligation under European legislation.

Southern Water’s Chief Customer Officer Darren Bentham said: “By ensuring investment in our communities we are able to support thousands of jobs, while delivering improved services and a wide range of environmental improvements such as cleaner rivers and seas.

“Our five-year spending programme includes more than 330 environmental projects – that’s more than any other water company and makes up a large part of our investment.

"These projects are in response to new European legislation and will have many environmental benefits.

“However, it’s a fine balance - while our charges must rise to meet the enormous cost of our investment, we have a duty to our customers to keep our increases to a minimum.”

According to Ofwat, the industry regulator, the impact of the new charges will vary for individual household customers depending on the company that supplies them and whether or not they have a water meter.

They say the increases will help to pay for an investment programme worth around £25 billion nationally between 2010 and 2015.

Regina Finn, Ofwat Chief Executive Officer said: “Customers can’t choose their supplier. It’s our job to make sure they are protected. Back in 2009, companies wanted bills rises of 10 per cent above inflation.

“That didn’t chime with what customers told us they wanted, so we said they could only increase bills in-line with inflation.

“We understand that there is huge pressure on household incomes, and any rise is unwelcome. Inflation is driving these increases.

“These rises will help pay for investment of around £1,000 for every household in England and Wales.

“This will deliver real benefits - from continuing to improve the reliability of supplies to dealing with the misery of sewer flooding for thousands of customers.

“We will make sure customers get value for money, and if companies fall short in delivering their investment promises, we will take action.

“In the past seven years, we have made companies pay out around £550 million where they have underperformed.”

The breakdown of the 2013/14 bill: Southern Water customers will see the cost of water bills rise £6 to £158 while the sewerage bill will rise £16 to £291. That equates to an combined overall rise of £23 to £449, an increase of 5.3 per cent on last year’s bill.

It is the highest monetry increase in bills in the country and the second highest increase compared to last year’s figures, only behind Thames water who recorded a 5.5 per cent increase.

According to Southern Water the increase will help pay for a £400m investment programme.

That includes:

  • The replacement of 23km of water mains to reduce the risk of bursts, leaks and supply interruptions
  • The replacement of 30km of sewers to reduce the risk of sewer flooding and pollution
  • Schemes to reduce the risk of sewer flooding to individual properties Further reducing leakage.
  • The company is on track to beat its 2012/13 target, following one of its best performing years in 2011/12.