WATER charges for 2.4 million households across Scotland are to rise for the second year in a row.

Scottish Water said the 1.6% increase for next year was below the rate of inflation and was only the second time prices had gone up since 2009.

The utility firm upped its charges in April 2013, with that rise also lower than inflation.

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The latest increase will come into effect from April, meaning the average ­Scottish Water charge for households in 2014-15 will be about £339.

Water charges are collected along with council tax, and those living in Band A properties will pay £4.26 more next year, rising to £12.78 more for those in Band H properties.

Scottish Water believes the amount its customers pay will remain well below the average charges of private water firms in England and Wales.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "By keeping Scottish Water in the public sector, household charges in Scotland will continue to be amongst the lowest in the Britain.

"Scottish Water froze water and sewerage charges for four years throughout the recession and by keeping increases for 2014-15 below the rate of inflation they have recognised the continued pressure on household finances."

Scottish Water has said it would only impose low-level increases in charges over the next six years, with chief executive Duncan Millican saying this "gives our customers reassurance that their water bills continue to deliver real value for money while we provide customer service improvements to water and waste water services in Scotland".

Trisha McAuley, director for Scotland at watchdog group Consumer Futures, said: "To keep the trust of consumers, it is critical they can clearly see how this extra money collected will be invested in providing high-quality water services, and Scottish Water will need to meet the challenge of ­visibly demonstrating how that is happening."