BOSSES at Yorkshire Water have defended plans to increase prices - and promised to make the company the best in its industry.
Customers face paying an extra £8.20 a year for five years from 2005.
But the company - which must get approval for the increase from industry regulator Ofwat - also plans to spend £1.3bn on improving its services.
The extra investment is for work to reduce the number of incidents of sewer flooding, improve the cleanliness of rivers and beaches and improve the quality of tap water.
In Huddersfield, Yorkshire Water has already started a £4m scheme to replace old iron pipes in and around the town centre.
During the five-year programme Yorkshire Water plans to:
* Invest £724m to maintain water pipes, sewers and treatment works
* Upgrade more than 1,318 miles of water mains to reduce the risk of discoloured water
* Upgrade 546 sewer overflows to reduce sewer flooding
* Improve 269 treatment works to improve discharges to rivers
* Upgrade 44 water treatment works to protect and improve customers' supplies.
Yorkshire Water managing director Kevin Whiteman said the company had struck a balance between the need for "significant new investment with environmental compliance and customers' willingness to pay".
He added: "We have worked hard to minimise the impact on customers' bills.
"Were it not for taxation and new European Union legislation, customers' bills in Yorkshire would actually be falling in real terms - despite our pledge to invest nearly £1m a day during the five-year period."
Mr Whiteman said: "Our vision is to be known as the best water company in the UK and we are getting ever closer to achieving this."
Ofwat says Yorkshire Water has cut its operating costs by 12% since 1998-99 - the largest reduction of all the UK's water and sewerage companies.
COUNTING THE PENNIES
HOW much money's going down the drain? Yorkshire Water figures show that it costs customers:
* About 5p to take a shower and 12p to take a bath
* About 9p to use your washing machine and 4p every time you turn on the dishwasher
* It's 78p to water your entire garden using a hosepipe - and even less if you use a watering can!
The average water and sewerage bill works out at about 65p a day.
That compares to 41p to 61p for a small loaf, 31p to 44p for a pint of milk and 31p for a day's TV.