Dams levels are starting to decline once more in the Shoalhaven, Sydney and Illawarra regions. Residents will pay an even higher price for water usage if the dam levels drop below 60%.
Since 2020 prices for Great Sydney water consumers have been determined by dam levels. Prices are triggered to rise whenever dam water levels fall below 60%.
Be aware of all the different factors contributing to your water bill: how you are charged for your water; the dam level price trigger; and how much your household uses.
Water management regulators have to take measures based on the harsh reality that drought conditions may be developing. It is inevitable that water catchment supplies for the Shoalhaven (Shoalhaven Water) and Sydney and Illawarra (Sydney Water) regions will fall below the 60% threshold at different times, and this will impact on your household bill.
With water charge increases a fact of life, reviewing your household water usage is the key to managing the size of your next bill. So, as you wash the car on the lawn and put on yet another necessary load of laundry, it will definitely pay to have a good understanding of local water charges.
Current pricing arrangements from Sydney Water (Sydney and Illawarra)
Every four years the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), a state government regulator of utilities, sets Sydney Water prices for water, wastewater, recycled water, stormwater and other services.
A trigger built into the billing arrangement since 2020 means a further increase in the consumption price whenever dam water levels fall below 60%.
In 2023/2024, if dam levels remain above 60%, you will pay $2.67 per kilolitre of water you consume. But if dam levels for Greater Sydney fall below 60%, this price will rise to $3.61 per kilolitre, according to the Sydney Water calculator.
Sydney Water estimates the target for a 3 person household on a small property should be under 456 litres a day, which would be under 166.44 kilolitres per year, on average.
The drought price trigger helping to safeguard water resources
IPART has explained the reasoning behind the new pricing arrangements. “The drought price provides stronger incentives for customers to conserve water when it is most scarce, without locking in higher prices when dams are full,” said IPART Chair Dr Paul Paterson in a media release. It will also make greater capital expenditure possible for Sydney Water, “The prices will allow for a record $4.6 billion in capital expenditure by Sydney Water over the next four years.”
The pricing incentivises Sydney Water consumers, “to conserve water all of the time while ensuring that customers only pay for the additional costs of drought when necessary”, Dr Paterson said.
What costs are included on a water bill?
Regardless of rainfall or drought, the more water your household consumes, the bigger your bill from Shoalhaven Water or from Sydney Water. It’s important to understand the bill from your water authority so you know what fixed charges you have to pay and where you might be able to cut back on consumption to save money.
Typically, each residence receives a Shoalhaven Water or Sydney Water bill quarterly, based on the metre readings that are taken every three months. The bill covers three main charges for residential metred properties: the usage-based water consumption charge; the fixed water service availability charge; and the fixed wastewater (sewage) service availability charge.
Pensioners pay a lower amount due to the pensioner rebate, as do owners of vacant lots, as they pay no water usage charges.
Water Consumption Charge
The water consumption volumetric user charge is levied for each kilolitre (1,000 litres) of water used and is based on the reading from a property’s water meter. This fee is charged after the water is used, unlike the water service availability charge. The water consumption charge is a single amount per kilolitre. This price is for metred properties and is the same for both single-family homes and apartments or flats.
- In 2023/24, the drinking water usage charge for the Shoalhaven area (Shoalhaven Water) is $2 per kL, for metred properties.
- In 2023/24, the drinking water usage charge for the Sydney and Illawarra areas (Sydney Water) is $2.67 per kL, for metred properties, but will increase to $3.61 per kL if dam levels drop to below 60% for Greater Sydney.
Water Service Fixed Availability Charge
This fixed annual fee (levied as a quarterly amount at the time of meter reading) is for the connection, or ability to connect, to the drinking water supply. All residential properties are levied a water service fixed availability charge, typically based on a 20mm connection and the same for both single-family homes and apartments or flats.
- For 2023/2024, the base water service charge for metred properties in the Shoalhaven area (Shoalhaven Water) is $88.00 per year.
- For the 2023/204, the base water service charge for metred properties in the Sydney and Illawarra areas (Sydney Water) is $71.32 per year.
Wastewater service (sewer service) fixed availability charge:
This fixed annual fee (levied as a quarterly amount at the time of water meter reading together with the water charges if applicable) is for the connection, or ability to connect, to the wastewater distribution system. All residential properties are levied a wastewater fixed availability charge generally based on a 20mm service and the same for both single-family homes and apartments or flats.
- The annual sewer service charge for the Shoalhaven area (Shoalhaven Water) residences for 2020/21 is set at $876 per year.
- The annual sewer service charge for Sydney and Illawarra areas (Sydney Water) residences for 2020/21 is set at $549 per year.
A Typical Water Bill in Shoalhaven, Illawarra or Sydney
The NSW Water Supply and Sewerage Performance Monitoring Report compares prices across different water authorities and provides a Typical Residential Bill (TRB). This is the annual bill paid by a residential customer using the utility’s average annual residential water supplied. It is the principal indicator of the overall cost of a water supply or sewerage system.
Look up water usage calculators, such as the online calculator provided by Sydney Water, to find out how much water you are using and how much it will cost.
On average, each person in Sydney uses about 200 litres of drinking quality water every day
Comparisons of Typical Residential Bills
It is harder to compare regional water bills. In the past the average Shoalhaven Water household used less (150kL per year) than the Sydney Water household (201kL per year). Also the dam level pricing arrangement applies to Sydney Water but not Shoalhaven Water households.
For the sake of comparison, the table below uses an example of a small household using an average of 166 kilolitres per year as the common basis.
2023/24 Projected Typical Residential bill per annum
|Water Charges||Shoalhaven Water Households||Sydney Water Households|
|Supply – Average usage||$495.77
[Based on example of 166 kL@ $2 per kL]
[Based on example of 166 kL@
@ $2.67 per kL (non-drought)
@ $3.61 per kL (drought)]
|Supply – Fixed Charge||$88||$71.32|
|Wastewater/Sewerage Service – Fixed Charge||$956||$621.84|
|TOTAL ANNUAL BILL||$1539.77||$1136.38 (non-drought) or $1292.42 (drought)|
How to save money on your water bill
You can reduce water consumption and the size of your bills by making some simple adjustments. If your household water consumption is high, try introducing these measures:
- Have shorter showers
- Fix existing leaky pipes, and monitor both visible and concealed pipes regularly
- Economise with garden watering, and ideally invest in a rainwater tank
- Wash vehicles on the lawn
- Use a pool blanket or cover to minimise evaporation of pool water
- Utilise water-efficient devices such as showerhead restrictors and dual-flush toilets
- Wait for fuller loads of laundry
- Only run the dishwasher when it is full
- Avoid keeping the tap running while brushing your teeth.
Water Wise Rules
The Shoalhaven Water and Sydney Water websites have information on the latest water-wise rules and recommendations. For more tips on what you can do, see our articles on conserving water around the home and other water-wise tips.
Check Your Plumbing
We don’t know what the year ahead will hold, but Sydney Water users will certainly hope for continued good rains so dams don’t fall below the 60 % ‘drought price trigger’.
Something you can control is water leakages in your property. Get in touch with us today to request a professional inspection of your plumbing system to ensure you are not spending too much on your water bills.