Households are to face higher water bills from April, after the water regulator Ofwat announced price rises.
The average household water bill in England and Wales is forecast to increase by 5.7%, or around £20 a year from 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013.
The price hike, which is 0.5% above the rate of inflation, means that the average water bill in 2012/13 will be £376.
Families have seen their incomes stretched by rising utility bills over the last year, although energy firms recently moved to cut their prices.
The water regulator has pledged that rises in water bills between 2010 and 2015 will remain 'broadly' in line with inflation until 2015.
"When we set limits on prices, we listened to customers," said Regina Finn, chief executive officer at Ofwat.
"They told us they wanted bills kept down, while maintaining safe, reliable water supplies. We challenged companies hard to deliver this. Our decision meant that, before inflation, average bills would remain broadly stable between 2010 -15.
"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."
Water companies are to invest £22 billion by 2015 – the equivalent of £935 for every household in England and Wales – to improve infrastructure, invest in pipe supplies and maintain the quality of drinking water.
"This will deliver benefits to us all – from continuing to improve reliability of supplies to cleaner rivers and beaches," added Ms Finn.
"If companies don't deliver on their investment promises, we will take action."
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