Most of us pay a charge to our water company for draining away the rain and other water which comes off our roofs and driveways. It's called surface water.

But every year tens of thousands of people pay too much on their water bill because they don't realise they don't have to pay it.

You should only pay a surface water charge if the water from your roof and driveway drains into the sewers.

If your surface has a “soakwawy” for example a tank under the lawn that collects this water the you shouldn't been paying for it. and you may be entitled to a refund, up to 25%!

Definitions of soakaway on the Web:

A deep hole used for drainage, where rainwater and other waste water drains directly into the ground, without connection to any mains drainage or ...

A pit, filled with broken stones etc below ground to take drainage from rainwater pipes or land drains and allow it to disperse.

An arrangement for draining rainwater into the ground. Usually a large hole dug and filled with broken bricks, rubble or similar 'waste' ...

Drainage of rainwater, using graded aggregate laid below ground.

There are many other examples that may entitle you to a rebate, maybe you have a large pond, cesspit on your property or a stream where your drainage water goes, anywhere other than the drains or main sewer. Questionably, also do you have a water harvesting system? The different water authorities define this differently, it may be worth making the enquiry.

If you own a small property, it may be worth considering creating a soakaway the next time you are making external improvements.

Rebates & Timings: IMPORTANT

All water companies have the same policy about giving payments back for surface water drainage charges. Not only that, the water companies also expect customers to tell them if they think they think they're being wrongly charged. They will only refund for the financial year you advised them. Hence if you contact them now, they will only rebate back to April 2009. Leave it untill May this year and your claim will only apply from April 2010!

Why else may you be paying too much?

If you are on a water meter, it’s worth checking with neighbours in similar size households and occupancy that your water bills are similar.

If not you may have a leak, maybe more than one property on the estate is feeding from the meter?

Again, the owness is on you to tell the water company you suspect you are being over charged, and if they agree they are only obliged to compensate for the financial year you informed them of your suspicions.

What can you do if you believe you have a problem but the water authority disagree?

You need to take regular weekly readings of your water meter, to establish your actual usage, and use this as a basis for calculating your actual usage, as opposed to what the board say has been used, you're on site they are not, and the person with the most accurate and detailed records always wins in a dispute, (record these in a diary with the actual time the readings are taken).

You also need to either turn the water off at the stopcock to the cold tank for say a day, hopefully you can manage, with what’s in the cold tank, if you don't flush the toilet all the time, and don't use the mains tap in the kitchen.

You could take a reading last thing at night, and again first thing in the morning, provided no usage occurs overnight, this will establish if there is any leakage or not, because the meter will record it! You should also record this test, and subsequent test, as you can refute allegations of leakage with it!
Be prepared to do battle and put in the effort, don’t give, I have heard of people getting rebates as much as £900 – and of course you have your future water savings, there’s an incentive!
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