Public forum on ACT water prices

Members of the public are urged to come along next Tuesday evening, 6 December 2016, to a Public Forum on proposed significant increases to the cost of water in Canberra.

The public forum will be held at 5:00 p.m. at the Waldorf on London, 2 Akuna Street, Canberra City, and will include a presentation by the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission, followed by a question and answer session.

Icon Water, an ACT government-owned corporation which has a monopoly on providing water to the ACT, currently sets a higher price per kilolitre for higher water usage. But since we are apparently no longer trying to send a message of water-saving to consumers (now that the drought is over and we have more water available in dams which are almost full), and since some higher water usage customers have turned to cheaper alternative sources, Icon has fewer customers and wants to charge them all much more.

A proposed change to the way water is priced would mean a massive six-fold increase to the annual supply charge, from $100 to $600 over ten years, and a drop in the cost of water to a single rate. At present there is a basic rate for usage up to 50 kilolitres  per quarter (the average household usage in Canberra), and a higher rate, about double, for usage over 50 kilolitres. Clubs and golf courses are keen to see the changes implemented; they stand to gain thousands of dollars a year in cheaper water costs. The poorest households will struggle to pay for their water, and tenants will face higher rents as landlords incorporate the charges into their accounting.

The Canberra Times‘s Daniel Burdon has been following this story over the course of this year; his most recent story notes that the ACT government’s analysis shows that apartment owners would be hit with water bill price rises of 64% to 87% over ten years, home-owners 34% to 38%; while the largest commercial users would rejoice in a drop of 38% to 51% in their water bills. The ACT government also raises the possibility that the proposed changes would encourage greater water use, affecting our obligations to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.