- Water fees for fast-flowing standpipes will increase by as much as 200 per cent from July 1
- Water Corporation says the new rates ensure commercial customers pay the same across WA
- Farmers in the Great Southern have warned the new pricing will make carting water unviable
The corporation plans to remove concessional prices for water drawn from fast-flowing, regional standpipes from July 1, which could increase water bills for some landholders by as much as 200 per cent.
Standpipes are freestanding pipes that provide clean water to remote areas with no direct access to water schemes.
Regional local governments must now decide whether to absorb the extra cost or pass it on to farmers and ratepayers.
Community subsidising farms
The new charges will vary depending on the size of the water outlet and flow rate, and higher prices will target high-volume users, such as farmers.
Earlier this year, the corporation temporarily cut supply to standpipes in the shires of Kulin and Lake Grace because intense demand from farming operations was undermining the drinking water supply to local towns.
Water Corporation Great Southern regional manager Adrian Stewart said the new rates ensured commercial customers paid the same across the state, regardless of whether or not the water was supplied from the scheme or a standpipe.
“It will also prevent the situation where the community is effectively subsidising water use for commercial enterprises,” he said.
Mr Stewart said the commercial rate would depend on the rate for the town where the standpipe was located, and these were based on the unique cost of supplying water to each town.
In the Shire of Katanning, about 270 kilometres south-east of Perth, the price will go from $2.50 per kilolitre to $8.30 for 50 and 80-millimetre standpipes.
The annual service fee will also rise from about $260 to $1,650 and $4,250 for 50mm and 80mm standpipes.
To achieve full cost recovery, including maintenance and administration, the shire said it would have to pass on a cost of up to $30 per kilolitre for some of its standpipes.
Katanning Shire President Liz Guidera said the changes were unfair on some residents already struggling with dry conditions.
“Obviously, the [State] Government has made this decision and hasn’t consulted with the community,” she said.
The localities of Lake Grace, Newdegate and Ravensthorpe had less than half of the average rainfall last year, and some livestock producers have warned of an impending water crisis.
In the past year Katanning pig farmer Tony Richardson has spent $80,000 on potable water for his pigs, and a further $200,000 on a desalination unit to reduce his reliance on the scheme.
“We have to have 60,000 litres a day, that’s the stock requirements,” Mr Richardson said.
“It’s hard enough living on the land … but having to pay that amount for water, well, I wouldn’t be farming.
The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) has set up a network with more than 120 emergency water supply points for livestock producers.
‘Just a gouge’: Farmer
Richard Marshall grows crops about 28km east of Katanning, and while he does not keep any livestock, he still relies on nearby standpipes.
He is currently carting water for herbicide spraying, which requires clean water rather than the limited muddied dam water available.
Mr Marshall said it was unreasonable to expect rural water users to bear the extra costs.
“We can’t help it when it doesn’t rain,” he said.
In response, the Corporation’s Mr Stewart said it would be up to local governments to decide if they passed on any impacts to water users.
“Water Corporation will ensure high-flow local government standpipes used for commercial purposes are charged prices consistent with other commercial users in that location,” he said.
“Patterns of water use from fixed standpipes have shown some businesses are currently charged at the concessional level by accessing local government standpipes, which is unfair for other businesses that are being charged correctly.”
Fees for 25mm standpipes, with slower flow rates, will stay about the same.
But Mr Marshall said the limited capacity and extra filling time would make it an unviable option.
“If they’re going to restrict it to small flows and tanks, we’ll be struggling to get what we require,” he said.
“Therefore, we are forced to pay the exorbitant price of a 50mm outlet.
“I can’t see why it should cost more to deliver a 50mm standpipe against a 25mm one — it’s only a matter of outflow, it’s still water at the end of the day.”
Ms Guidera said the State Government should readopt the Farm Water Rebate Scheme, which covered half of the costs for on-farm water supply works.
The scheme was axed almost 12 months ago, as part of the State Government’s cost cuttings.
In future, concessional rates will only apply to fast-flowing standpipes if the local government makes a formal request for a declaration of ‘water deficiency’ to the DWER.
The declaration process aims to safeguard the commercial interests of farmers during very dry periods.
Source: ABC Rural 2019-04