Our natural resources are under pressure. Greater Sydney’s growing population and the strain of extreme weather conditions, like drought and bushfire threat, have prioritised sustainability measures from government bodies and consumers alike. So what does that mean for our water supply and household water bills in the Hills District?
While the dam water supply in the Sydney and Hills regions have been replenished by rain and high rivers recently, there is always the worry that another drought situation will strike, increasing water prices in an effort to reduce daily water use.
To assist with maintaining conservative use of our natural resources, new water billing rules were introduced that bring much-needed price reductions, as well as water-saving incentives.
As a consumer in the Hills District, we would strongly encourage you to be aware of your water bill charges as well as your overall water consumption so you can avoid high bills and contribute to saving valuable water.
Who sets Sydney’s water price?
Because the greater NSW region has only one water provider to choose from (Sydney Water), a regulatory body has been enlisted to keep costs fair.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is a state government regulator of water utilities. Every four years they review and set the maximum prices that Sydney Water can charge for drinking water, wastewater, recycled water, and stormwater services.
IPART also keep an eye on dam levels, water consumption rates and water delivery systems to find a neat balance between the supplier needing to cover the cost of maintenance and equipment and the community’s needs and expectations for water provision.
IPART also accepts a share in the responsibility of putting strategies in place for long-term climate change risk management, to protect water supplies and have a positive impact on conservative water use.
How water prices are determined
From July 1st, 2020 new water charges were introduced affecting users of Sydney Water, including the Hills and Hawkesbury Shires. The changes mean that Sydney Water consumer bills will be determined by dam levels.
When dam levels are low, the cost of water used will increase. IPART hope to inspire water-saving even when dam levels are high, but especially in times of drought, with their flexible water prices.
As well as flexible price, costs are still influenced by traditional elements including the type of property you have (residential or business) and the available services in your area.
Flexible water price
Flexible water prices have been designed in response to rapidly falling dam levels during drought conditions. The flexible prices rise and fall depending on the amount of water available in dams.
Under the flexible price system, the price of water per kiloliter will increase if dam levels become critical (60% capacity or less). These inflated prices will stay in place until the dam water levels rise above 70%.
For most households, this is good news. To keep these increased water costs achievable, IPART has reduced the fixed price charge on all services (water supply, sewerage removal and stormwater flow). It is predicted that most Sydney Water customers will see a reduction in their average water bills, to the tune of around 7% or $80 a year.
Households that continue to save water can still see significantly reduced water bills, even in drought conditions.
Current water price in the Hills District
Water bills typically cover a quarterly period (three months) and are made up of two areas.
The first part is the fixed charges for supplying the service (drinking water supply, wastewater removal and stormwater maintenance). The second is the water that you use.
The service charges are fixed and are applied each quarter to all houses, flats, strata units and dual occupancies in the Hills suburbs. These costs are calculated using a daily rate, regardless of how much water you consume.
The daily rate means that the total bill might look different from quarter to quarter as they won’t have the exact same number of days, i.e. some quarters might be 90 days while others are 91 or 92.
There will be a review of prices on the 1st of July each year to adjust for the rate of inflation but as it currently stands, these are the current service fee charges for in the Hills District:
Drinking water service charge
$12.35 per quarter for residential homes with a meter
$120.33 a quarter for unmetered.
For unmetered dwellings, the quarterly price will also be affected by the flexible rate and will rise to $158.44 per quarter if dam levels fall below 60%.
The Wastewater (sewerage) service charge
$138.64 a quarter
This covers the maintenance and operating costs of the wastewater network, transporting waste away from your property, treatment plants and environmental projects to protect natural habits and land rejuvenation.
Stormwater service charge
Units or low impact dwellings $6.32 a quarter
Houses $19.76 a quarter
Stormwater charges are only applied to homes inside the stormwater catchment zones.
Some suburbs in the Hills District are inside catchment zones including:
- Beaumont Hills
- Rouse Hill
- Some homes in Bella Vista and North Kellyville
If you live in a stormwater service area and have your own stormwater catchment systems (rainwater tanks), you may be eligible for a discount.
Water consumption prices
The amount of water you use for drinking, showering, car washing, watering the garden and washing will usually fluctuate depending on the season, as well as how many people live in your home, the size of the home and the type of garden you have.
The current water usage price for 2021- 2022 period are:
- Dam levels above 60% = $2.35 per kilolitre
- Dam levels below 60% = $3.18 per kilolitre
A kilolitre is 1,000 litres.
Average water bills in the Hills District
Most of greater Sydney, including the inner regional area, use Sydney Water, including residential properties in the Hills Council and Hawkesbury Council areas.
On average, an Australian uses 340 litres of water a day (that includes cooking, drinking, washing and watering the garden). So in terms of average use, you can expect to see 30 kiloliters per person, per quarter on your bill, which is $70 each in water use alone.
The average water bill across NSW (per quarter) is $246, including service charges.
Larger households can pay significantly more ($372 a quarter for five or more people), while smaller households, particularly pensioners, have lower average water bills, around the $220 mark.
Understanding your water bill
Most water bills are set out in a fairly similar manner. You are always able to talk to your provider if you have any questions or concerns, or give us a call here at Plumbmaster Plumbing if you have unexplained high levels of water use.
The summary at the top of the first page will show your last bill total and the amount paid to date as well as the total for your new bill.
In the details, each of the fixed charges will be listed with their individual prices for that quarter: Water service, Wastewater (sewerage) service and Stormwater (if applicable).
Next is your water usage costs. These may be broken across multiple instances if there were different rates of water charge applied in the billing period. For example, 60 days at $2.35 rate and 30 days at $3.18.
Most bills also show a comparison to how much water you used daily compared to previous bills.
The back of the bill shows the meter reading that was taken. You can check this against the meter on your property if you have any doubts.
Understanding your bills is important so you can see where you can take charge and reduce your water costs by decreasing your water consumption. This is especially important if you are using more than the average of 340 litres per person per day.
How to save money on your water bill
Paying attention to your water bill and being aware of your water usage can really help motivate you to reduce water consumption in your home and decrease your bills. There are also several ways you can control the amount of water you use in your home:
Rainwater is great for watering your garden, filling up the birdbath and washing your dog. If you don’t have the budget or room for a professional water tank, any cistern or large container will do.
Leaking taps add up to hundreds of litres of water over time. Most leaks you will see but you can also have a look at your meter when everything is turned off to see if it’s still running to let you know if there are any pipe issues.
Showers take up a big portion of your home water use (as much as 17%). Try to cut back to 3-5 minutes of shower time. You can set a timer to help keep track.
Switch to high efficiency
If your home is a little older you are probably wasting water through inefficient set-ups. Showerheads, flow regulators and toilets are just some of the areas you can improve your water efficiency by replacing old for new.
Modern showerheads can save as much as 500 litres of water per shower compared to those made prior to 1992. With that amount of saving you will quickly see your money back and the savings come in.
Water flow regulators (or tap aerators) fluff up running water with air, so the volume feels the same to touch, but is actually reduced. As well as limiting the amount of water flowing through the tap, it also heats more effectively so you’ll save on your power bills too.
Low-flow toilets get the same job done with only a dash of water. The new and improved models are worth having, especially if you are already If you are considering an upgrade.
Turn off the tap while you brush or shave
While you brush or shave, turn the tap off. When shaving, put in a plug to have a well of water to clean your razor as you go.
Use an automatic dishwasher
Automatic dishwashers use less water than hand washing dishes. If you do handwash, put the plug in and fill up the sink rather than letting the water run down the drain.
Fill up the washing machine
Washing a full load in your washing machine saves water. As well as increased water use, lots of small loads put a strain on your machine. Wait until you have a full load to run your clothes through if you can.
Be smart about watering
Water your garden when it’s cool. If it’s hot outside you will be losing a lot of water to evaporation, it won’t get down to the roots where it’s needed. Water in the evenings and early mornings. If you have watering systems on a timer you can set it to water overnight and know your lawn will be hydrated through the heat of the day.
By being conscious of our water use we can tap into the cost-saving benefits of flexible water prices and also work to reduce the amount of water we use in our homes. If you have any concerns or would like help looking after your home water use and supply, Plumbmaster is your qualified, licenced plumber in the Hills District.