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Business Water Rates

Commercial water bills can be both confusing and tedious. Understandably, most business owners don’t read beyond the first page.

In this guide, we aim to clarify exactly how business water rates work and explain how to get cheaper rates.

💡Business water rates increased on 1 April 2024. Here’s our guide to business water rates increase.

Here’s the key part of our guide:

Let’s start with a summary of the regional default water rates that most businesses pay.

English business water rates 2024/25

Using published data from each regional default water supplier, here are the 2024/25 business water rates relating to the ten biggest water companies.

These water rates apply for water used by commercial properties from 1 April 2024 to 31 March 2025.

💡See below for a full breakdown of 2024/25 business water rates.

Wholesale regionDefault supplierWater £/cubic meterWastewater £/cubic meter
United Utilities WaterWater Plus2.07221.5133
Northumbrian WaterWave1.45851.4702
Yorkshire WaterBusiness Stream1.84662.0866
Severn Trent WaterWater Plus1.90341.3605
Anglian WaterWave1.93342.1132
Thames WaterCastle Water2.00371.271
Southern WaterBusiness Stream1.97062.5756
Wessex WaterWater 2 Business2.66092.0882
South West WaterSource for Business2.16783.6864


Over 80% of all English pay the needlessly expensive default water rates presented in the table above.

Find a cheaper fixed-rate contract with AquaSwitch. Compare commercial water rates currently offered in the market with our business water comparison service.

Scottish business water rates 2024/25

Scotland has only one company responsible for managing the water and sewerage network – Scottish Water.

Business Stream is Scotland’s default business water supplier. Here’s a summary of deemed water rates for small commercial properties from 1 April 2024.

Water rates typeDefault (Business Stream)Scottish water wholesale
Water annual standing charge£174.37£84.86
Water - First 20 cubic meters£2.6162 / Cubic meterNil cost
Water - Next 100 cubic meters£0.9812 / Cubic meter£1.5515 / Cubic meter
Water - All additional volumes£0.9812 / Cubic meter£0.8952 / Cubic meter
Wastewater annual standing charge£168.40£59.84
Wastewater - First 20 cubic meters£2.9261 / Cubic meterNil cost
Wastewater - All additional volumes£1.7596 / Cubic meter£1.0254 / Cubic meter
Surface drainage4.488 p / £ RV3.6671 p / £ RV


In Scotland, default business water rates are significantly more expensive than the fixed rate offered on the market.

Scottish business water quotes are usually presented as:

  • A percentage discount to the default tariff or
  • Scottish Water wholesale rates plus a fixed annual retail fee.

Small business water rates

Upon deregulation, properties paying business water prices were assigned a Supply Point ID and moved into the deregulated water market.

Mixed-use properties that pay business rates and council tax continued to be charged like a home. Smaller businesses often continue to pay household rates determined directly by Ofwat.

Businesses without a water meter will be charged using an unmeasured tariff at a pre-determined amount, usually based on the rateable value of the property.

Did business water rates go up in April?

Yes, business water rates increased from 1 April 2024 by an average of 9%, which is significantly higher than inflation.

Water companies in the UK are under intense pressure to stop discharging sewage into rivers. The price increases will help these companies pay for the work needed to fix this problem.

The size of the April price rise depends on your region. Check our detailed guide on the 2024 business water price increase to see what changes to expect in your area.

How much can I save by switching to new business water rates?

Businesses can now save up to 20% of overall water costs by switching away from out-of-contract water rates. The amount your business can save depends on several key factors:

Country – The Scottish business water market has been deregulated longer than the English market, and savings available are much higher.

Wholesale region – The exact wholesale and default rates for water vary from region to region depending on which water company owns and maintains the water network.

Your supply needs – The size of your property, the amount of water it uses and the size of your water meter all impact business water rates.

Use our business water rates comparison tool today to determine how much your business can save in the open water market.

How are business water rates calculated?

Business water rates are paid by any property using the following services:

How you pay for these services depends on where your property is located. However, all business water suppliers use a standard set of charges. Here’s our guide to these standard charges:

Potable water standing charge

The potable water standing charge is a fixed daily fee charged, regardless of whether your business uses any water.

The fixed charge is applied to all properties with a business water connection to maintain the external pipes and pumping systems that supply water.

The size of the potable water standing charge depends on your business’s region and the size of the pipe that connects to your property.

Potable water metered rates

The potable water rates depend on the amount of clean water supplied to your business property. Simply put, the more water your business uses, the more you will be charged.

The water meter at your property will measure the volume of clean water that passes through the pipe into your property. Your business water supplier will take regular readings from the water meter so that they can calculate how much to bill you.

On your business water bill, the volume of water your business uses is multiplied by a volumetric rate. The volumetric rate is the charge for each cubic meter of water used.

Wastewater standing charges

Wastewater is any water that leaves your property through the sewerage pipes.

The standing wastewater charge is another fixed daily charge levied to all properties regardless of whether the property produces any wastewater. The charge pays for the maintenance of the sewage system your property uses.

Wastewater metered rates

Like the potable water volumetric charge, businesses also pay for every cubic meter of wastewater flowing into the sewers.

Most water suppliers assume that all clean water supplied to your business premises eventually ends up in the wastewater system. The water company, therefore, uses the meter readings on the potable water pipes to determine the wastewater charges.

If your business uses a lot of water in its operations, it may mean that significantly less water returns to the sewers. If this is the case on your water bill, your supplier should apply a “return to sewerage” factor to reduce the volumetric wastewater rates.

If this isn’t happening, we recommend that your business conduct a water audit to see if you can reclaim historical overcharging from your supplier.

Surface water drainage rates

Businesses are charged for removing rainwater that falls on their property and goes into the drainage system. It might seem unfair to pay for rainwater, but keeping the drainage system working well is crucial to prevent flooding and is an essential role of water companies.

How much you pay for surface water drainage depends on where your business is and how big your property is. Generally, the larger the property, the more you’ll pay for drainage.

If your business has a high surface water drainage charge, we recommend using our guide to the surface drainage charge to check you are being billed correctly.

Highways drainage rates

Rainwater landing on public roads and footpaths also gets funnelled into the drainage system. Water suppliers charge highway drainage rates to cover the costs of maintaining the highway drainage network.

Everyone uses public roads, but the government chooses to pay for the drainage system maintenance through water bills. To keep this fair, a water supplier will charge an equal amount to each property in its region.

If a property is not connected to the sewers, it should not be charged a highway drainage charge.

Foul sewage and trade effluent

Trade effluent is any liquid waste other than surface water and domestic sewage discharged by a business. An example is waste products from food production. The vast majority of companies do not produce trade effluent and will, therefore, not be charged for this.

Trade effluent charges are highly complex and dependent upon the nature of the effluent. Our comprehensive guide to trade effluent helps explain the subject.

Miscellaneous business water rates

Businesses can face a number of miscellaneous additional charges from their water network provider. The main categories of charge are as follows:

  • Assessment of business water rates – You can request that your wholesaler review your current water rates for accuracy with a site visit. Your regional water wholesaler will look to cover the costs of this assessment.
  • Disconnection charges – If you request that your property be disconnected from the water network or your supplier disconnects your business due to non-payment of bills, they will charge for the required work.
  • Reconnection charges – Equally, when you request for your business to be reconnected to the water network, your wholesaler will charge for the physical act of reconnecting your supply to the water network.
  • Meter installation, repair or replacement charges – A water wholesaler will look to pass on costs associated with physical work requested regarding the water meter at your business premises.
  • Smart water meter charges – Some water suppliers offer smart water meters as a separately charged add-on that gives you a real-time measurement of water consumption.

How do water rates work if I don’t have a water meter?

Most commercial properties have a water meter that measures the volume of mains potable water consumed over time.

A minority of properties don’t have a water meter, making it necessary for the business water supplier to estimate how much water is being used by a property. There are two different ways business water suppliers calculate business water rates without a meter:

Unmeasured business water rates – In an unmeasured tariff, the Rateable Value of a property is used instead of the volume of water consumed to calculate volumetric water charges.

Assessed business water rates – In an assessed tariff, the water consumption is estimated by your business water supplier instead of being measured. The consumption estimate is made based on the size of your property and what it is being used for.

Do businesses pay water rates?

Yes, businesses will pay water rates when they have any property connected to British water infrastructure. That can be any of the following (and typically all of them):

  • Potable water pipes coming into the property
  • Sewage pipes going away from the property
  • Rainwater drains around your property.

The business water rates your business pays depend on your region. See below for an example of a typical business water rates:

Business water rates example

Business water rates are confusing, so let’s examine an example of how they are calculated. A small office in Blackpool uses 100 cubic meters of water each year (about the same as a small household).

From 1 April 2024, the regional default tariff business rates are calculated as follows:

Example: Annual business water rates for a single small office.

Water standing water charge – £79.89 (Based upon the standard water meter size of 15mm)

Volumetric water charge – £207.22, calculated by multiplying:

  • Water consumed – 100 cubic meters (as measured by the water meter)
  • Volumetric charge – £2.0722 per cubic meter (default tariff volumetric rate)

Wastewater standing charge – £54.79

Wastewater volumetric charge – £143.76, calculated by multiplying:

  • Wastewater returned – 100 cubic meters (Using a 95% return to sewerage allowance)
  • Volumetric charge – £1.5133 per cubic meter (default tariff volumetric rate)

Surface water drainage – £107.51 (Based upon the size of a small office)

Highwater drainage charge – £46.08 (Based upon the size of a small office)

Total annual business water rates – £639.25

*The example above used property within the United Utilities wholesale area on the default regional tariff. How business water rates are charged depends on your property’s wholesale region.

Check out our business water rates calculator for an interactive demonstration of the above.

What is Rateable Value (RV)?

Rateable Value is one way that business water suppliers calculate unmeasured water rates. The primary use of Rateable Value is to determine the business rates that each commercial property will need to pay to the local council.

The rateable value can also be used to determine volumetric water and wastewater charges where a property does not have a water meter. In this case, water and wastewater will be charged at a specific unit price per £ rateable value.

Each wholesaler annually publishes how the Rateable Value determines the unmeasured water and wastewater rates.

Business water rates units of measurements

The business water rates a property pays depend upon the following measured inputs that will be used to calculate the amount due in on your water bill:

Cubic meter (m³) – A measure of the volume of water consumed by a property, as measured by a water meter.
RSA (%) – The ratio used to calculate the volume of wastewater disposed of based upon the volume of clean water consumed. The RSA is usually between 90 and 100%.
Surface area (m²) – The area that a business property encompasses, a measure used to calculate the surface drainage charge.
Meter size (mm) – The width of the clean water pipe entering your water meter. Used to assess standing water charges.

Business water rates glossary

Water tariff – The scheme used to calculate the standing and volumetric water rates based on the size of the water meter and the volume of water used.

Wastewater tariff – The scheme used to calculate the standing and volumetric wastewater rates based on the size of the water meter, the volume of water used and the return to sewerage allowance.

Highways drainage tariff – The scheme used to calculate the highways drainage charge for all properties in a region.

Surface drainage tariff – The scheme used to calculate the surface drainage charge for properties by estimating the area encompassed by a property.

Return to sewerage allowance – A ratio used by business water suppliers and wholesalers to estimate the amount of water returned to the sewerage system based upon the amount of potable water used by a property.

Unmeasured water tariff – A water tariff that estimates water consumption where no water meter is installed at a property.

SPID number – A unique identifier applied to each water and wastewater supply point that records the meter size, meter reads, water tariffs, and other information required to calculate business water rates accurately.

Banded charges – Where volumetric business water rates depend on the annual consumption used at a property. These are used to apply lower business water rates to high consumption properties.

Volumetric charges – Water rates that depend on the volume of water consumption at a property. Volumetric charges are quoted per cubic meter of water supplied or wastewater removed from a property.

Wholesale scheme of charges – A document published annually by each regional water and wastewater wholesaler sets out how wholesaler water rates and tariffs are calculated.

Default tariff scheme of charges – A document published annually by business water suppliers setting out how out-of-contract business water rates are calculated.

Maximum Daily Demand Charge – An annual charge levied by a business water supplier to guarantee that a specified peak volume of water will always be available from the mains supply.

Cubic meter – A unit of volume of water used in business water rates. A cubic meter of water is equivalent to 1,000 litres.

Assessed charges – Where a business water supplier uses an estimate of annual consumption where there is no water meter at a commercial property.

How can businesses reduce their water rates?

Our business water experts summarise ten top steps small companies can take to reduce their business water rates.

<h3>Conduct a water audit</h3>

Conduct a water audit

The first step in reducing water bills is to conduct a water audit to understand how much water your business consumes and where it is used. A water audit will identify leaks, wastage, and inefficiencies on your property.

<h3>Fix leaks</h3>

Fix leaks

Leaks are one of the most common causes of water wastage in businesses. Fixing water leaks can significantly reduce water bills and save money. Companies can hire a plumber to identify and fix business water leaks or install a leak detection system.

<h3>Water-efficient devices</h3>

Water-efficient devices

Water-efficient devices like low-flow toilets, taps, and showerheads can significantly reduce water consumption. These devices use less water than traditional ones without sacrificing performance.

<h3>Reusing water</h3>

Reusing water

Businesses can collect and reuse rainwater for watering plants, cleaning, and flushing toilets. Alternatively, a greywater system can strategically reuse wastewater from appliances like washing machines.

<h3>Water management systems</h3>

Water management systems

Water management systems can help companies monitor and control their water usage. These systems can detect leaks, measure usage, identify areas of waste, and actively alert users to potential issues.

<h3>Educate employees</h3>

Educate employees

Employees play a crucial role in reducing water consumption. Educating employees about the importance of water conservation and providing them with tips on conserving water can help reduce your business’s water bills.

<h3>Upgrade to water-efficient appliances</h3>

Upgrade to water-efficient appliances

Replacing old appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, with modern, resource-efficient alternatives can save your business money on business electricity rates and commercial water rates.

<h3>Implement a water-saving policy</h3>

Implement a water-saving policy

A water-saving policy can help businesses set targets and goals for reducing water consumption. It can include employee guidelines, targets for reducing water consumption, and incentives for achieving these targets.

<h3>Monitor and measure water usage</h3>

Monitor and measure water usage

Monitoring and measuring water usage can help businesses identify where water is used and where it can be saved. Businesses can use smart water meters or sub-meters to measure water usage and identify areas of waste.

<h3>Comparing business water rates</h3>

Comparing business water rates

Compare business water rates to see how your current tariff stacks up against alternatives available in the open water market. Switching to a fixed-rate tariff could save your business thousands on water bills.

Business Water Rates FAQs

Here are the answers to frequently asked questions on business water prices.

How often do business water rates change?

Once a year. Business water rates change every year on the 1st of April. To view the latest business water rates in your area, you can review our tables above for English business water rates and Scottish business water rates.

How much are business water rates in my region?

Business water rates vary from region to region. The disparity arises because the cost of maintaining the regional water network is higher in certain parts of the country than in others.

As an example, there is less rain in the South West of England, and the region is sparsely populated. Hence, pipes need to travel long distances between reservoirs and properties, making water supply more expensive.

Each regional water network determines its own wholesaler charges. In Scotland, there is only a single wholesaler, Scottish Water. In England, the different regional water networks are:

Water and wastewater regional wholesalers:

  • Anglian Water
  • Northumbrian Water
  • Severn Trent Water
  • South West Water
  • Southern Water
  • Thames Water
  • United Utilities Water
  • Wessex Water
  • Yorkshire Water

Water only wholesalers:

  • Affinity Water
  • Bristol Water
  • Portsmouth Water
  • South East Water
  • South Staffs Water
  • SES Water

What are the regional commercial water rates?

The following rates relate to the 2024/25 standard default non-household tariff in each region:

Wholesale regionDefault supplierStanding water
Volumetric water
Standing wastewater
Volumetric wastewater
Scottish water*Business Stream174.370.9812£168.401.7596
United UtilitiesWater Plus79.892.0722208.381.5133
Northumbrian WaterWave90.691.4585188.361.4702
Hartlepool WaterWave73.421.2093N/AN/A
Yorkshire WaterBusiness Stream65.461.8466113.342.0866
Welsh WaterN/A28.971.4661111.812.1407
Severn Trent WaterWater Plus94.551.9034104.691.3605
Hafren DyfrdwyN/A39.71.971772.481.5127
South Staffs WaterSource for Business92.511.3482N/AN/A
Anglian WaterWave73.421.9334131.032.1132
Essex and SuffolkWave90.691.8324N/AN/A
Cambridge WaterSource for Business65.461.0863N/AN/A
Affinity Water (Central)Castle Water84.061.2262N/AN/A
Affinity Water (East)Castle Water84.061.9535N/AN/A
Affinity Water (South East)Castle Water84.062.0777N/AN/A
Thames WaterCastle Water65.472.0037116.431.271
Bristol WaterWater 2 Business71.751.6585N/AN/A
SES WaterSES Business Water34.341.3558N/AN/A
South East Water (East)Castle Water73.722.3807N/AN/A
South East Water (West)Castle Water73.721.8071N/AN/A
Southern WaterBusiness Stream83.21.970695.552.5756
Wessex WaterWater 2 Business70.702.6609107.122.0882
Portsmouth WaterCastle Water78.930.9119N/AN/A
Bournemouth WaterSource for Business69.731.1556N/AN/A
South West WaterSource for Business94.682.167898.763.6864


Some wholesalers use different pricing structures depending on your property’s location within each region. The table above displays a representative tariff for each wholesaler based on a single region.

Further, the table has excluded surface and highway drainage charges that depend on individual properties’ surface area.

How much are the average business water rates?

The water rates paid by businesses in Britain depend both on region and the amount of water consumed. 1.2 million English and 0.3 million Scottish properties are registered on the non-household water network.

In 2024, the mean average non-household water rates bill is £2,250 per annum. These average business water rates have increased significantly following price changes in April 2023.

The average figure encompasses millions of small businesses that use only a few cubic meters of water each and the largest industrial users, which spend millions yearly on water.

Do business water rates have VAT?

Most businesses do not pay VAT on water bills. The exception is industries that use large quantities of water as a direct input in their production, the biggest ones being:

  • Construction
  • Chemical Production
  • Food Production
  • Mining
  • Textile Production

Your business water supplier will automatically assess whether they need to charge your business VAT.

For our in-depth explainer, check out our guide to VAT on business water bills.

Are business water rates cheaper than domestic?

Generally speaking, domestic water rates are cheaper than business water rates because the average household uses less water than the average business. Domestic property water rates are calculated differently from business water rates.

Most homes do not have a water meter installed, so domestic water consumption is assessed rather than measured. Unless you specifically request a water meter for your house, a water supplier will charge your home a fixed cost regardless of how much water you use.

In contrast, most business properties pay water rates based on measurements taken by a water meter.

AquaSwitch completed a one-off study comparing a house and a small business property using the same amount of water. We found that, in this case, a business on the regional out-of-contract tariff will pay an average of 8.7% more than the household.

Can I save money on business water rates?

Yes. The water market for non-households is deregulated so businesses can switch suppliers to cheaper rates. Business water suppliers add a retail fee to the underlying wholesale water rates for customer services.

AquaSwitch provides a free business water rates comparison service to help businesses across Britain get the best deal. Ready to switch business water suppliers today?

How does Ofwat regulate business water rates?

Ofwat carefully regulates water rates to avoid the excessive profitability of any of the companies involved in the supply of water and wastewater services.

Firstly the regional wholesale water rates are carefully controlled such a balance is maintained between:

  • Ensuring the wholesaler has sufficient incentive to invest in water infrastructure for the future.
  • Ensuring both household and non-household water rates fairly reflect the cost of water and wastewater services to the end-user.
  • Ensuring that the wholesaler’s return on investment is fair and is not unduly profitable.
  • Ensuring that the wholesaler can meet their legal, social and environmental obligations.

Ofwat then further regulates the business water suppliers by providing an annual price cap which sets a maximum retail fee that can be charged to business customers.

The price cap increases annually and will increase significantly in April 2024 to encourage competition in the deregulated water market.

For more information, check out our guide to everything you need to know about Ofwat.

What are the average water rates for a small business?

Business water rates charged by water suppliers are charged on a volumetric basis. The more water your business property uses the higher your water rates will be.

A typical small office with a handful of employees will consume in the order of 200 cubic meters of water each year and will be charged between £700 and £1,200 annually, depending on where the property is located and exact circumstances.

Are business water rates determined by postcode?

Yes, the amount a business pays for water rates depends on where your property is located. England is divided into approximately 20 different wholesale regions, each of which has its own company owning and operating the water infrastructure.

The cost of maintaining the water network in each region is different so business rates also vary from region to region. See our handy guide here to the different regional water rates.

Will my business water rates be cheaper if I take a longer contract?

Yes, most business water suppliers will offer a lower retail fee if your business opts for a longer fixed contract. Locking in a longer contract with a business water supplier has the additional benefit of avoiding annual increases in the retail default fees.

The key thing to remember with business water supplier contracts is that you will not be liable for the remainder of the agreement if you move out of a property.

Are small business water rates more expensive than large businesses?

In most regions of England and Scotland, wholesale water companies offer large user tariffs for industrial customers. Large user tariffs generally levy a standing water charge in the tens of thousands but offer a lower volumetric water and wastewater rate than the standard tariffs.

The effect of large user tariffs is to provide a bulk-buy discount to those industries that use significant amounts of water in their production.

How much water does a business use?

Business water rates are calculated on a volumetric basis; the more water a property uses, the higher the charges. Volumetric business water rates are measured in price per cubic meter. The following shows how much water properties are typically consumed:

  • The average household: 130 cubic meters
  • A small shop: 60 cubic meters
  • Office building (per employee): 20 cubic meters

However, some industries use a huge amount of water. Check out our blog post on which industries use the most water.

Have business water rates gone up?

Yes, business water rates increased by an average of 9% in April 2024 due to inflationary pressures on the British water industry. Check out our complete guide to the 2024 business water price increase.

The Authors of the business water rates page

This page was written and reviewed by our business water experts Tom Melhuish and Ben Brading. Here’s our editorial process.