Fresh Thinking Hub

The price we pay for rain

Rain is a popular UK topic of conversation. Do we have too much or not enough. Either way we can’t control it, but it is free. Because of this it’s perhaps fair to question why businesses (and domestic water users) have to pay for it to be taken away through their surface water and highways drainage charges.

Our video explains what surface highways drainage is and what exactly you're paying for...

Firstly what’s what.

Surface Water is rain water that falls directly on to your property and then flows away directly through the public drainage system.

Highways drainage is water that drains from roads and footpaths into public drainage systems.

Once down the drain and out of sight, it’s natural that rainwater is out of mind. But things don’t stop there. There is a network of pipes to collect and transport rainwater to where it’s treated and cleaned to go back into the clean water system. In 2017 alone, the average total rainfall across the whole of the UK was 1.4m*. That’s a lot of rainwater that has to go somewhere. It’s all this that we’re all paying a contribution towards.

Without capturing and reusing this rainwater, clean water would be more of a scarce resource and therefore more expensive. Also we shouldn’t forget that the rainwater has to go somewhere. And let’s be honest, sometimes we have a lot to get rid of. If we didn’t manage our rainfall, surface water and sewer flooding would increase dramatically with all the unwanted consequences this brings.

You’ll pay for surface water drainage in your bill in one of four ways:

  1. a fee in the standing charge
  2. a charge based on the rateable value of the property
  3. as part of the volumetric rate
  4. a charge based on the site area of your property

How you pay depends on who the wholesaler is in your region.

If your wholesaler is United Utilities or Severn Trent Water you pay based on the site area of you property so your fee is proportionate to the size of your business premises. This is based on the theory that if your premises weren’t there the rainwater would soak away into the ground.

The price you pay is set by the wholesaler and at Water Plus we simply pass it directly on to our customers.

It’s the same for highways drainage. You could argue, though, that everyone benefits from the paths and roads, so why shouldn’t the authorities pay.  And you’d certainly have a point, but current water legislation dictates this and there’s no plans for change there.

With these charges there are ways to review how yours are being calculated and to make sure the recorded area of your property is right. And there’s other measures you can take to cut down costs, such as rainwater harvesting, all of which we’ll look at in a future post.

But for now, managing our rainfall is a cost we all have to share and we’d all be a lot worse off without it. Not to mention, we’d have nothing to make idle small talk about.

*Source: UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Met Office

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