Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Water, Water, Every Where, But Can't Afford to Drink

I'm at war with my water company, at least that's what it feels like. Never before, in all my years, have I encountered a company so difficult to deal with so, petty and pig headed. Yes, pig headed! I have been too, I suppose, although I admit that only grudgingly. They have brought out the very worst in me, but now I'm throwing in the towel. We are at a kind of stalemate where both parties can perhaps walk away pretending victory with dignity intact. At least that's what I'm telling myself. I'm tired of fighting now. I just want it paid, gone, forgotten.
I had NEVER had a problem with a water bill before I moved to Cornwall. Water bills were something I barely gave a moments thought to, they dropped through the letter box, were paid, and that was that. No problem. They were small bills, almost insignificant bills, compared to others we had to deal with. At times our water bills were so low that our landlords were even happy to include it with our rent and we didn't even have to think about it at all. It's fair to say that although I was always careful with my water usage, I did so purely because of environmental concerns not financial ones.
We considered many things when we were making the decision to relocate. We discussed the impact of a big drop in income, we talked about how we'd cope with a slower pace of life after living life at 100 mph for so long. We debated the consequences of being further away from our families, and even looked at differences between local health trusts but never, never ever, not once, did we think about if we'd be able to afford our water bill! And yet on more than one occasion since we moved here that has been a factor in those 'did we do the right thing?' conversations. There have even been times, on my darker days I admit, when I've even considered moving away just to rid myself of the dreaded, demon water company.
I'm not going to go into detail here (mainly because it would probably bore you, but also because just thinking about it sends my blood pressure sky high) but an unexpectedly high (and, I still maintain, incorrect) bill, coupled with a change to six monthly billing which meant I didn't know there was a problem until it was too late (convenient that) resulted in having to pay by instalments instead of paying the bill outright each time as we always had. Now this wouldn't have been a problem if the instalments hadn't been set at a level we couldn't possibly afford (being based on the high bill). The problem with paying by instalment is you aren't just paying the bill you've just received but are also paying towards the next one.
And so began a spiral of missed payments, arguments, negotiations, threats of court action and bully boy tactics. Every offer of payment I made was refused and countered with an impossibly high demand. I am absolutely convinced that I could offer them the sun, the moon and the stars only for them to come back with a demand for the space station and proof of life on Mars too!

Eventually, in desperation, I wrote a long letter, not offering this time but telling them exactly what I would be paying and when and much to my surprise I got a very different letter in reply. It ignored many of my points and yes, still demanded more than I had said I would be paying, but it was considerably less than previously (maybe suggesting I open a vein had an impact. lol) It's more than I wanted to be paying BUT with a bit of juggling it is manageable. Phew.

The letter also confirmed what I had long suspected, I've managed to bring our water consumption down to a fantastically low level. We are now using less than they would expect for a single person household (without feeling like we're suffering at all, honest) at a cost of approx £5 per week. Now for anyone in other parts of the country with cheaper water bills that might not seem something to shout about (my step daughter runs two deep baths a day and spends less than that- and yes I am jealous!) but anyone who lives in the south west region will know what an amazing achievement that is. I swear it would be cheaper to have liquid gold flowing from our taps ;)

There is a big debt to clear, it's going to take time, but finally I feel it's achievable.

1 comment:

  1. Funny you should say that! I have always paid my water bill every quarter when the bill drops through the door, but I decided to set up a Direct Debit to pay monthly, also to go paperless.
    So I worked out my average bill from the last 15 bills - it came to £13.47 exactly. So I decided on paying £15 monthly which would easily cover my usage.
    I phoned the nice man on the 0800 number, gave him my bank details and explained what I had done and decided to pay £15 per month. He then went very quiet before coming back to say that £17.50 would be a more realistic figure, based on my average monthly usage, with the opportunity of reducing the payments if it was too high. To cut a long story short, I refused. I insisted on setting it up at £15 monthly with the option of increasing the amount if it wasn't enough. He wasn't best pleased!!!
    But I shall be even more frugal with my usage and make sure that I won't use more than my £15's worth! It's MY money, not his and my decision how much I shall pay out - so there! Hmmph!!!