Above inflation rise in water bills
Struggling households face a 5.7% - or £20 - hike in average water bills this year.
The above-inflation hit will see the typical bill rise to £376 for the year, industry watchdog Ofwat said, but the country's biggest water and sewerage firm, Thames Water, is upping prices by 6.7%.
In 2009, Ofwat set the size of "real" rises in charges for the years 2010-2015, with the aim of keeping average bills almost in line with inflation for another three years. The regulator said this is around 10% less than the rise asked for by water companies.
However, the 5.2% rate of retail prices index inflation used by Ofwat is based on November's figures and has already dropped to 4.8% in December and is expected to fall further throughout the year.
The bill changes for this year will come into effect from April and apply until the end of March next year.
Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn said: "When we set limits on prices, we listened to customers. They told us they wanted bills kept down, while maintaining safe, reliable water supplies. We challenged companies hard to deliver this. We understand that any bill rise is unwelcome, particularly in tough economic times. Inflation feeds through into water bills, and this is driving these rises."
Companies will invest £22 billion by 2015 - more than £935 for every property in England and Wales, Ofwat said.
The impact of the new charges will vary for households depending on the company that supplies them and whether or not they have a water meter, Ofwat added.
Customers of Essex Water and Southern Water will face the biggest jump in prices - 13% over the 2010 to 2015 period excluding inflation - with Bristol Water's bills up 7%.
The UK's biggest water company, Thames Water, will be allowed to raise prices by 3% excluding inflation compared with Ofwat's initial call for flat prices from the firm.