Bills soar as water plant hits home

SYDNEY residents will be hit by price rises of more than 20 per cent next year after the pricing regulator granted Sydney Water permission to increase its charges by more than the corporation itself requested.


The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal said water prices for households would rise by 17 per cent, plus a further increase for inflation – suggesting a rise of more than 20 per cent next financial year.

Over the next four years, household water prices are to rise by a combined 41 per cent for households using 200,000 litres of water a year. When inflation is included, the final amount could rise by more than 50 per cent. Households using 300,000 litres of water a year face a rise of 45 per cent, plus inflation costs, while households using 400,000 litres will be hit by a rise of 48 per cent, plus inflation.

Sydney Water’s chief executive, Kerry Schott, said price rises beyond 2011 would be in line with the consumer price index. "It will be close to the CPI – depending on our capital spending program," Dr Schott said.

The tribunal decided to give Sydney Water a higher price rise than it asked for following the recent rises in interest rates.

The head of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Robin Banks, said the fixed service charge element of the water bill would double under the planned price rises. This would affect low-usage and low-income consumers because there was "nothing discretionary about the service charge", he said.

"The rises are to pay for the desalination plant, which won’t be used during this determination period.

"Sydney Water’s decision sends no message other than that the cost of desalination will hit everyone," he said.