Cash-strapped households face an punishing 3.5 per cent increase on their water bills this year which was approved today by toothless "regulator" Ofwat.
Bills in England and Wales will spiral to £388 on average between April and March 2014 - 0.5 per cent above inflation and far more than the 2 per cent average UK wage rise in 2012.
Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn claimed that the increased bills were "driven by inflation" and added that she new the rises would be "unwelcome."
But the announcement drew scorn from campaigners for renationalisation, who highlighted the billions currently being extracted by private water firms in profits each year.
The Ofcom announcement came as National Debtline revealed that it is receiving a growing tidal wave of calls from people having trouble paying water bills.
The advice line said it had been swamped with a record 19,667 calls for help with water debts last year, up from 12,226 in 2010 and 597 in 2003 - a huge 251 per cent increase since 2007.
A spokesman said: "It's one of the fastest-growing debt problems we're dealing with."
The rises revealed today will vary for households depending on their supplier and whether they have a water meter.
Thames Water will charge the biggest percentage rise in water and sewerage bills.
It announced six-month pre-tax profits of £112.6 million in October, but will increase bills by 5.5 per cent, leaving households paying £354 on average.
People in the Southern Water area face a 5.3 per cent average rise to £449, while households supplied by Wessex Water will face an average bill of £478 - an increase of 4.9 per cent.
Those supplied by South West Water will see bills fall by 7.3 per cent after the government offered taxpayers' cash in order to reduce each household's bill by £50.
Despite this bills in the region remain the highest in the country with households paying £499 each year on average.
Together these three firms soaked up profits totalling hundreds of millions in 2012.
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh accused the coalition of being out of touch for allowing the rises.
She said that with bills set to go up by as much as 6 per cent people deserved to know exactly where their money is going.
But Communist Party general secretary Rob Griffiths was more blunt.
He said the big increases to utility bills were a symptom of privatisation.
Only bringing them back into public ownership would solve the problem, he said.
"Just like the gas and electricity monopolies, the privatised water companies are ripping off consumers with rocketing bills and soaring profits," Mr Griffiths said.
"This latest round of inflation-busting price rises only strengthens the call for the energy sector in Britain to be taken back into public ownership in the interests of both consumer and the economy."
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