Central Coast drought cuts water affordability

Water price increases recommended today for the Central Coast may be unaffordable for low income residents. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is concerned that drought proofing the Central Coast will come at a significant social cost, unless action is taken to improve assistance for disadvantaged residents.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) today released its draft determination for the prices of water, wastewater and stormwater for residents of Gosford City Council and Wyong City Council. The determination recommends price increases of around 20% annually for three years on water consumption charges.

By 2009 Central Coast residents can expect to pay average annual water bills of $829.30, well above average water bills in Sydney and the Hunter.

The drought has reduced dam capacity below 20% and is driving big and costly infrastructure investments.

“The need for water utilities to drought proof water supply cannot be seen in isolation from the society it is serving.” said Elissa Freeman, Policy Officer,

“Higher water prices will have community-wide impacts as rents increase, disposable income is reduced and councils are required to manage a higher rate of residential debt,”

“The councils must implement social programs to assist low income households manage higher bills and reduce their water consumption. Water affordability must be a primary focus.”

Communities around NSW are increasingly facing water supply insecurity. Today’s recommendations reinforce the need to undertake sustainable investment in water supply augmentation and demand reduction programs over time.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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