Updated: Covid-19 and your Business Water Supply
Since the commencement of the first lock-down, Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on business across the UK.
To support your business and its response to the crisis, we’ve created and continually updated this article to suggest positive actions you can take concerning Covid-19 and your business water supply.
Although most people are now vaccinated and lock-down restrictions have been eased across the country, the supply chain and economic impacts are still being felt by businesses.
Getting back to business as usual
Through the Coronavirus pandemic, many businesses have used significantly less water than usual. The first step we recommend is to give your water supplier an up-to-date meter reading if you have not already done so.
If your supplier has not regularly recorded meter readings, your business will be billed based on estimates.
Any estimates that suppliers use are based on historic water usage, resulting in significant over-charging of your business if you have not resumed operations to pre-pandemic levels.
When you give your supplier your latest water meter reading, they will compare what they have billed you to what your business has used and correct the billing to your company accordingly.
If your business closed or was running at a lower capacity during the last year, you may even receive a credit back from your supplier.
Reopening your site after an extended closure
If your business site has remained closed for a long time, there may have been only limited circulation of drinking water through your plumbing, creating a risk of water stagnation.
Drinking water held at room temperature for too long can start microbial growth and uptake in plumbing metals resulting in potential health risks.
Water UK has created an in-depth article setting out the steps your business can take to minimise this risk.
The temporary vacancy scheme
During the first lock-down of March 2020, Ofwat introduced a temporary vacancy scheme. If a business site was closed between 16 March 2020 and 31 July 2020, it was treated as a temporary closure for water charge purposes.
The temporary closure status meant that the supplier would not levy any charges through the closure period and would not chase for any balances your business owes from before the closure.
If your business was closed during the temporary vacancy scheme period but did not receive this relief at the time, we would advise you to contact your supplier as soon as possible to see if you can benefit from this relief, if you have not already done so.
If your business site remains closed
Unfortunately, the temporary vacancy scheme was not repeated or extended into the subsequent lock-downs of 2021.
If your site remains closed, we recommend that you work as closely as possible with your supplier to ensure you only get billed for the water you are using.
The simplest way to do that is by providing water meter readings regularly through the period of reduced usage.
If reading your water meter is impractical, we recommend contacting your supplier and explaining the situation, or installing a smart meter.
Suppliers should work with their customers to ensure the accuracy of their billing and may implement a reduction in their charges without a meter reading.
Difficulties making water bill payments
Business suppliers have offered Covid-19 related repayment schemes to help businesses that find it difficult to pay their water bills.
Under these support schemes, your business may be able to agree with the supplier to spread the payment of overdue water invoices over an agreed repayment period.
If you cannot make payment for a business water bill as it comes due, we recommend you contact your supplier to keep them informed of the situation.
Getting in touch with your business water supplier
The options we have presented above are based upon Ofwat’s (the regulator) guidance.
The exact steps you will need to take will vary from supplier to supplier. To find the steps relevant to your business, please visit the website of your current supplier.
It’s a difficult time for businesses, including the suppliers of water themselves. We advise you to keep your supplier up to date with any changes to your business that will impact your water usage.
And if are still due to re-open in 2022, we recommend that you contact your supplier to let them know.
We hope this article on Covid-19 and your business water supply was of help, and if you are looking to switch your business water supply in the future, feel free to use our free compare and switch service.