Water recycling needed but high fixed charges mean many Sydney households are still paying for water they don’t use

Flickr/ Shaylor

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) welcomes the NSW Government investigating water recycling as a necessary measure to secure Sydney’s water supply during ongoing drought conditions.

PIAC supports water recycling, but stresses good long-term water planning involves being efficient with available resources and using water sustainably, not waiting until supplies are critically low and options are limited.

‘Waiting until catchments are low means the only option is harsh restrictions,’ said Craig Memery, water policy leader at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

PIAC is calling for Sydney Water and IPART to change the way we pay for water to reflect that there will always be times of scarcity.

‘With a changing climate, droughts like this will be more frequent,’ said Mr Memery. ‘We need to get serious about long term water planning. That means a re-think of how water bills are permanently structured, and acting before we’re in drought while more options are available.’

Under the current system most of the water charge for households is a fixed charge, regardless of usage. ‘Fixed charges don’t reward efficient water usage. People who do their bit with water tanks and water efficient appliances end up paying twice,’ said Mr Memery.

PIAC is calling for block tariffs that keep prices down for those who use less water and encourage more efficient usage of this precious resource.

‘Inclining block tariffs are used in every other capital city. They make water more affordable for many struggling households, encourage efficient usage and ensure people who choose to water gardens and fill swimming pools with drinking water don’t pass on the cost to everyone. They are fairer for all, and better reflect the true cost of supplying water,’ said Mr Memery.

‘Extra customer charges of $1.4 billion is not the answer to the current crisis. As members of Sydney Water’s Customer Council we have been calling for improved drought-preparation and a fairer and more efficient approach to pricing. Without real structural changes, we are not going to address the reality of a changed climate and water scarcity.’

PIAC welcomes Minister Pavey’s statement that ‘all options are on the table’ for securing Sydney’s water supply, but cautions against building more desalination. ‘Desalination is expensive, energy intensive, and slow to roll out,’ said Mr Memery. ‘Flushing 80 percent of our water into the ocean and then paying billions to make drinkable water from the same ocean is not efficient or sustainable, and there are better options.’

PIAC looks forward to working closely with the NSW government on sustainable long-term water planning that uses available resources efficiently and ensures water is available and affordable in times of scarcity.

MEDIA CONTACT: PIAC Energy and Water Communications Officer, Anna Livsey: 0478 739 280.

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