Action to protect the environment and fix leaks must be a priority for water companies to build trust with their customers, according to a new study from the Consumer Council for Water (CCW).

New [1]research published today (Friday) by CCW shows that general levels of trust in water companies is high when it comes to providing reliable and sustainable services and keeping customers informed.

However, fewer than half of people (43%) trust water companies to protect and enhance the environment.

CCW wanted to gain a better understanding of people’s perceptions of water companies, and the wider industry, to ensure that they are addressing the priorities that matter to the communities they serve.

When asked to describe what water companies could do to build trust with water consumers, reducing pollution and fixing leaks were named as top measures.

Emma Clancy, CCW Chief Executive, said: “Understanding what action needs to be taken to build trust in water companies is imperative if we’re to create a sector that works for people and the environment – which is one of our key ambitions.”

“The two issues most commonly mentioned by people were leaks and polluting of rivers and seas, and these risk further eroding trust in the sector. Companies not only need to address these areas but they should also be clear and consistent in how they communicate their actions to people, with far greater transparency over their performance.”

When asked to describe their water company in their own words, people’s descriptions were more positive than negative – 46% and 34%, respectively. However, nearly half of those surveyed used negative terms to describe the water industry, as a whole. 

Younger people, the less wealthy and consumers living in the North East, Wales and the West Midlands tended to have a more positive perception of their water company and the industry as a whole.

Those of an older demographic, the wealthier and people living in the South East tended to have a more negative perception. 

Two-thirds (62%) of water consumers said their perception of their water company had not changed in the last year. However where it had changed, it tended to be for the worse (23%) with only 11% saying their perceptions had got better.

The report concludes that better communication is key to improving trust in the water sector. As the cost of living crisis continues to hit people in the pocket, it’s even more imperative water companies tell their customers how they are spending their money to improve services and address the concerns they have on issues like enhancing and protecting the environment.

CCW has already begun working with the sector to help water companies improve the way they communicate with the communities they serve, on a range of issues, including the value of water and protecting the environment.

Read the full Perceptions and Trust in Water Companies report. 

The Consumer Council for Water has gone behind closed doors to explore households’ more unusual and often wasteful water habits.

Their Survey finds that almost 1 in 5 people in England and Wales run the tap to drown out the sound of them using the toilet; nearly half of the people said they had taken a shower after going to the loo for a ‘number two’, and almost a third of people run the shower longer than needed to ‘get some peace and quiet’.

CCW is using these findings to help shine a light on ways people can save water and play their part in easing pressure on water resources.

Almost 1 in 5 people have left the tap running to drown out the sound of them using the toilet, according to new research which has lifted the lid on our water habits.

Leaving the shower running to ‘get some peace and quiet’ from the rest of the household was also among the bathroom behaviours revealed in the Consumer Council for Water’s (CCW) Lifting the Lid: The Secrets of Our Water Habits.

CCW wanted to test how common a range of water habits were among households and whether people viewed them as wasteful. The results were eye-opening with almost a fifth of people in England and Wales (17%) admitting to running the bathroom tap to cover up the sound of them using the toilet. Nearly a third (29%) said they had run the shower for longer than they needed just to get some peace and quiet away from family or housemates.

Some of the most common habits included flushing the toilet twice after having a ‘number two’ (90%), using the washing machine or dishwasher when it was not full (67%), taking a bath or shower to cool down (66%), washing an item of clothing that wasn’t dirty (65%), staying in the bath so long it needed topping up with warm water (59%) and killing a plant by overwatering it (58%).

But there is cause for optimism too when it comes to encouraging people to become water savvy. More than six out of ten people (63%) felt they could be more water efficient, with 18 to 34 year olds particularly conscious of the need to save water – despite displaying some of the most wasteful habits.

Karen Gibbs, Senior Leader for the Environment at CCW, said: “A good quality, reliable water supply is an essential part of our daily lives from the moment we wake up to when our head hits the pillow at night – but what our findings reveal is that many of us are wasting water without even realising.”

“Last summer’s drought brought into sharp focus the need for everyone to value water and use it wisely, which is why it’s encouraging that the majority of people said they recognised the  need to do more to reduce their water use. It’s up to the water sector to help guide households towards simple actions that can make a big difference when it comes to saving water.”

Taking a shower immediately after a bath (21%), having three or more baths/showers a day (20%) and running the shower to get creases out of clothes (15%) were some of the less common behaviours people said they had displayed at least once.

CCW hopes that by shining a light on some of these habits it can support people in making changes that will not only save water but also, in many cases, cut people’s water and energy bills too. It forms part of the watchdog’s wider People and the Environment stream of work, which aims to help people better understand how their water use impacts the world around them. 

Simple changes that can save water and money include:

  • Halving your daily shower time from 10 minutes to 5 minutes – saving an individual up to £200 on their annual water and energy bills, if they have a water meter.
  • Cutting out two cycles of your washing machine every week by making sure it’s always fully loaded – saving someone about £40 across the year.
  • Only running the tap when you need to. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth could save more than 8,000 litres of water a year – shaving about £30 off your water bill.

CCW’s website is packed with more tips and advice that can help households save water, energy and money around the home. Visit for more information.

The study builds on a previous survey conducted by Bristol Water and McCann back in 2019.

Delegates attending the Institute of Water Annual Conference 2023 on September 13th will also get to hear more great water saving tips directly from CCW in a live exclusive broadcast of their Waterfall: Water Saving Podcast.

The largest rise in the average household water and sewerage bill for almost 20 years could prove a tipping point for the one in five customers already struggling to pay.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCW), the independent voice of water consumers, has issued the warning in response to Water UK confirming the average household bill in England and Wales will rise by about £31 to £448 from April. The 7.5 per cent average increase – the largest since 2005-06 – doesn’t tell the full story though.

Regional variations and other individual factors such as whether a customer is metered and how much water they use means some households could face rises significantly above – or below – the average.

Although water companies are helping more than a million households through their own social tariff schemes, CCW says the ‘postcode lottery’ nature of this support means many customers who cannot afford their bill slip through the net.

CCW has repeated its call for the UK Government to deliver on its promise to consult on a new water affordability scheme that would provide fair and consistent support for households based on need, not where they live.

Emma Clancy, Chief Executive of CCW, said: “Water is essential for all of us so no-one should be worried about being able to afford their bill. These increases will bring more uncertainty to struggling households at a time when they can’t be certain they will get the help they need.”

“Low-income households need immediate relief and the long-term security of knowing their water bill will be affordable. It’s not fair that struggling households face a postcode lottery when it comes to getting help with their bill – that’s why we urgently need a new water affordability scheme that provides consistent support based on people’s needs.”

Creating a new affordability scheme – or single social tariff – to lift more than a million households out of water poverty across England and Wales was the central recommendation of CCW’s independent review of water affordability, which was commissioned by the UK and Welsh governments. The review found that existing water company support still left five out of six customers who cannot afford their water bill without the help they need.

The UK Government publicly committed last August to consult on a new water affordability scheme but this has yet to materialise. The current Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently stated she is not minded to pursue a new single scheme.

Jess Cook, water poverty lead at National Energy Action (NEA), said: “Social tariffs are essential for low-income households. Discounted water bills for those struggling to pay can stop the most vulnerable from cutting back or running up debt when they can ill afford to do so. But the current postcode lottery means where you live affects what you pay and what support you receive, and the Secretary of State, Thérèse Coffey, has suggested that fixing this is not one of her top priorities. With water bills rising 7.5 per cent on average during this cost-of-living crisis, it’s more vital than ever that access to a social tariff should be made fairer, more consistent, and accessible to everyone who needs it, regardless of where they live.”

There are some ways struggling households can reduce their bills or access support and CCW has joined forces with Water UK in trying to raise awareness of this help through its Support on Tap campaign.

CCW’s top three ways to save or seek support with water bills

  • Trial a water meter – typical saving £200. If you’re among the 40 per cent of households who still not do not have a meter, it’s worth checking if you might be better off with one. Not everyone will save with a meter but water companies will give you two years to trial one and switch back if you’re unhappy. Our water meter calculator can help you work out if you might save.
  • Take the heat out of bills by saving water and energy savings vary. Much of the water we use in the home comes from the hot tap. That means if you have a water meter you can double up on water and energy savings too. If every person in a family of four halved their daily shower time from 10 minutes to 5 minutes they could save more than £700 a year (water and energy combined).
  • Reduce your bills with a low-income social tariff – typical saving £150. All water companies offer reduced tariffs to low-income customers. Eligibility and the level of support varies from company to company.

Water customers can learn more about the full range of support on offer by visiting