Finally! Sanity in the water debate!

By 3 February 2007 32

The Canberra Times, in amongst the shrieking madness surrounding the water debate, has discovered some intelligence deep in the heart of ACTEW:

He [Actew Managing Director Michael Costello] claimed current water prices, which are set by the ACT’s independent competition and regulatory commission, were “wildly undervalued”. “The pricing structures should be specifically designed to influence demand

How many years of squandered resources did it take to get to this point?

So called economics whiz Richard Mulcahy is, however, still holding on to the mad dream of virtually free water (while nodding briefly at reason, before watching it depart, at the end of his media release).

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32 Responses to
Finally! Sanity in the water debate!
VYBerlinaV8_now with 2:53 pm
03 Feb 07

Altering water pricing is one thing, but I hope that water provision is managed liked a sensible business process, where the extra $$ we pay goes toward water infrastructure development and management, and doesn’t just end up in the coffers of the current (highly financially incompetent) local government.

cranky 3:30 pm
03 Feb 07

So water is fast entering the realm of “undesirable” consumption.

Charge (tax) it to death, a la tobacco and alcohol. The fact Stanhope makes a fortune is neither here nor there. It is of course ‘for our own good’

sim_m_o 3:42 pm
03 Feb 07

It will be interesting to see how Canberra goes introducing a significant price increase to water. There is that famous bill of Human Rights Stanhope introduced, so it only makes sense that the ruling of the United Nations World Health organisation that affordable clean drinking water provided by governments is a fundamental human right. Many people struggle to pay their utilities as it is, (but somehow their VB funds never seem in danger) so we’ll have to see how the only Australian leader who has introduced a bill of human rights goes about contravening them.

It has to be said also, that a price increase won’t do much to reduce consumption. Look around, Forrest, Red Hill, Nicholls, Harcourt Hill, all those perfectly manicured lawns are still lush, while in middle class areas, previously green lawns lie dormant and crunchy. Water seems to already be distributed in relation to wealth, and judging by external appearances, the people using the most are the people who will care the least about a price hike. Hopefully we don’t have another detroit, where kids are being taken into the custody of the state, as their parents can’t (stop wasting money) pay the water bill.

Tempestas 8:58 pm
03 Feb 07

Using the market to get better outcomes for the whole community is a good idea, processes can be put in place to ensure that everyone can get their necessary amount.

Apparently the Naas valley, should they build another dam there is both not a massive catchment and is geologically less than ideal for the purpose. So recycling (which is just taking the vagaries out of rainfall) is a solution.

Can we have a reverse carbon tax thing as well, where the consumer sells their carbon quota to the utilities as well. Maybe some sanity there would be a good idea too.

futto 9:06 pm
03 Feb 07

if water is more expensive, does ACTEW get the money?

futto 10:18 pm
03 Feb 07

“years of squandered resources”

Last time i checked, water comes from rain. It’s not finite, like oil. Forgive me, but it’s pretty intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise.

I have a grey water tank under the house and I’m about to put a storm water tank in to supplement this. I do all my garden watering with the grey water but i would like to water the grass as well (hence the new tank).

As long as the dam has enough water for me to shower, flush the loo and drink, my gardens are fine. The lawn is looking very sad though…even the weeds are dead. *sigh*

The cat did it 12:11 am
04 Feb 07

It’s always amusing how rapidly the supposedly fiscally responsible Party dumps basic economics when it becomes uncomfortable. If Richard the Pretender really wanted to look like a serious pollie, he’d bite the bullet on pricing, but no, he’s taken the bob-each-way option again.
We as a community are going to have to fund additional water infrastructure; it makes basic sense to do this in a way that encourages more efficient water use, and that means pricing changes. It’s not difficult to design a water tariff to be reasonably equitable while also giving people the pricing signals they need to change water consumption behaviour.

TAD 7:31 am
04 Feb 07

I think this is complete bullsh!# and another example of the government taking money from us “for our own good”.

Similar to speed camera vans set up by Urban Services which are sold to as a way to reduce the road toll but have no effect on the toll whatsoever as the vans are placed not in times or places where the accidents occur but where the most revenue can be raised.

When money is attached to something the government gets attached to it such as alcohol, tobacco and poker machine taxes. The Govt gets so used to the money that reducing the use of these things becomes unattractive as it may do with water.

How about setting a household quota where the price goes up after that point. (So that the good folk don’t get punished). Or how about introducing a corporate rate so that the diplomats, malls and contruction and cleaning industry consider their usage?

I think ripping off the public is not the answer

miz 9:08 am
04 Feb 07

‘influence demand’ says Mr Costello, but BY WHOM, it should be asked. Reduce WHOSE water usage? Huh. Increasing costs will not affect either the big users or those who blithely use heaps simply because money is no object (eg the wealthier end of town).

This is far too simplistic, and clearly proposed (and supported) by people who have never done it tough. The market is a harsh taskmaster. I for one do not want a Dickensian world where those with money are somehow ‘entitled’ (because they have money) to do whatever they like, and those without it should know their place and it’s their own fault anyway.
TAD you make some good points, though as I have said in previous posts, household quotas are not always fair either because there are so many variations on household size – and I doubt any govt would want to make it fair by having a per-person charge as it would be an admin nightmare. It has to be acknowledged that water is a necessity and should not be priced beyond anyone.

The fault here lies not with people’s usage but poor planning and shortsightedness by sucessive govts. While we must address these things as there is a current shortage (due to bad management, maximising profit for shareholders and spending as little as possible on infrastructure for joe public), it does not mean there will always be a shortage, especially if our present circumstances are utilised as a wakeup call and infrastructure is built Now (ie, DAMS, not stupid shit converters).
Geez, ‘drought and flooding rains . . ‘. Don’t politicians know their poetry?

Tempestas 9:16 am
04 Feb 07


How does a dam create more water? I thought it depended on rainfall in the dams catchment area? Where is this water going now that we can dam it and not have to compensate someone downstream for it?

You may of missed it but yesterday all the boffins agreed that the drought part will get bigger and the flooding rains far less likely in the bottom half of this country, so maybe a rethink on building dams may be in order.

miz 9:35 am
04 Feb 07

Boffins, schmoffins. They’ve been wrong before, if they were always right we would now be experiencing the start of a second ice age.

When it rains, (which it will, maybe not always when we want, but it will actually rain sometime – and if we are wont to believe the boffins – or should I call them fortune tellers? – it will be soon, seeing the El Nino is all but over) we catch some in a dam. A dam that’s actually big enough to supply this town, even in drought conditions. There will be plenty for our beloved environmental flows too then, won’t there!

Maelinar 9:57 am
04 Feb 07

As Mrs Maelinar commented to me:

“You know what this means ? Heaps more stinky people at the mall, and now they will have an excuse”.

We sew our own seeds people.

Woody Mann-Caruso 10:38 am
04 Feb 07

the vans are placed not in times or places where the accidents occur but where the most revenue can be raised.

Nice derail – I’ll bite. Let me guess – you just got a speeding fine? Dumbarse. I’m always amused when mouthbreathers like you claim that vans aren’t placed to reduce risk, just maximise revenue. Think about it for two seconds, and you’d realised that to maximise revenue you’d have to place the cameras in a spot where everybody speeds – that is, places where people’s reckless driving behaviour is likely to increase the risk of an accident. In any case, you’re just one side of the dumbass coin, the other populated by people complaining that cameras are placed in the middle of nowhere, when nobody else was around, so what difference did it make that they were speeding? The fact is that speed cameras are absolutely everywhere. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a voluntary tax on dumbarses, and there should be more of them.

Last time i checked, water comes from rain. It’s not finite, like oil. Forgive me, but it’s pretty intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise.

Another mouthbreather. Lat time I checked, there hasn’t been any rain for a long, long time, and forgive me, but it’s pretty intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise. (See how I put words in your mouth there, just like you did with JB?) Infinite supply (if there is such a thing) is meaningless if the stuff never actually falls from the sky. Try telling people in Goulburn not to worry – they should build a waterslide, because it’s going to rain Real Soon Now ™, and once it starts we’ll never, ever have another drought ever again. The new dams won’t be like old dams – they’ll always be full, and never run dry, so there’s no need to change our old water-wasting habits.

Sometimes I wish a global warming-driven flash flood would wipe out Summernats. The irony would be too much to bear.

johnboy 10:58 am
04 Feb 07

Lat time I checked, there hasn’t been any rain for a long, long time

Ummm, yesterday? day before that?

delusions of intellectual adequacy once again from WMC.

luca 11:14 am
04 Feb 07

Fight em, Miz, fight em!

Mike 11:25 am
04 Feb 07

As TAD said set a quota. Set it so that we can achieve an overall usage which can be sustained by our supply. Charge a reasonable rate for that, anything over charge sufficient to really discourage it. Use the money so gained to improve our resource.

I have sent the following to the Canberra Times twice without success but having read the editorial of last Sunday I see they put their weight behind DOB in a neighbour. Perhaps sticks could be issued for beatings.

Here we go stage four with probably new moralistic stupidities. Perhaps we could install surveillance cameras in home showers to make sure we don’t take too long or wash unnecessary parts. Its about overall usage of water not what it is used on.

We should take measures to save water but our Government and the ACTEW have strange responses to the diminished reserves of water. The usage of anything is controlled by its cost not by prescribing what it may be used for.

We do have a means of control it is called a water meter. They commonly occur on properties that use water! Set a usage per household and set a premium charge on water used above that. This is easily accounted for and collected under the existing system. The current moralistic ideas are ineffectual nonsense. Don’t get the idea that I am a great waster of water and wish to continue doing so. My household uses much less water than most others. We have no garden, water feature or pool in fact the only thing watered outside are a couple of pot plants sometimes. Despite this if I were to wash bird droppings of my car that is a finable offence and somehow immoral. I could however run my taps straight into the drain 24 hours a day without any risk of a fine. Look at the rules they do not control total usage. You can abide by them and still waste water. The fines are minimal ($200) anyway and cost more to police and enforce than they recover. It is the good will of the householder that is controlling water usage at the moment nothing else.

If cost is used there will be no need for water police with their attendant cost, likewise no possible court action. Encouraging people to DOB in a neighbour is dangerous, how long before violence occurs? Those with deep pockets may use more water but they do anyway the fines are not a deterrent.

paperboy 11:50 am
04 Feb 07

Seems it’s not just the clouds of doom hanging over johnboy’s home. Just sunny skies over my West Belconnen home. The rain guage’s cobwebs haven’t been washed out since 4.5 mm on Jan 23rd

Pandy 12:28 pm
04 Feb 07

I had 25mm Friday nite.

JWH said that part of the fault of the lack of dam capacity is becasue the Governments are restricting capacity, to increase revenue streams to their pockets.

Costello is ineffect saying that the divdend to the Government will increase to punish us water users. I agree, price water to pay for infrastructure and to curtail demand in drought but I want to see the facts first.

One fact first is that the abstraction charge is a tax. It was never ever going to be used to build a new dam. So now they must do so by increasing the size of the Cotter. will the abstraction charge be used to pay for the new dam?

glennt 5:58 pm
04 Feb 07


Maelinar 7:49 am
05 Feb 07

It’s not finite, like oil. – That’s absolutely correct. There is as much water on the planet as there was in 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2000. The amount of water on Earth NEVER changes. What we do with it does.

(btw, I can provide scientific analysis to back this up but I prefer not to bore people with the turgid details – and am too lazy to go find it)

VYBerlinaV8_now with 8:38 am
05 Feb 07

“to maximise revenue you’d have to place the cameras in a spot where everybody speeds – that is, places where people’s reckless driving behaviour is likely to increase the risk of an accident.”

Sounds to me like you’ve been suckered by the govt’s efforts to convince us that speed is the root of all evil.

luca 8:44 pm
07 Feb 07

How un-Australian could you get!

Thieves steal Southern Highlands school’s water
Julie-Anne Adamski

KANGALOON: Teachers and students at Kangaloon Public School in the NSW Southern Highlands returned yesterday to find their bubblers and toilets dry, after thieves emptied their 50,000 litre rainwater tank.

Thieves had emptied a 50,000 litre rainwater tank, located near the primary classroom, the night before. It is believed the water was stolen in a large tanker that was brought onto the school premises.

Source: Southern Highlands News

luca 8:48 pm
07 Feb 07

Impact of water restrictions on the ill.

Vic charity calls for water donations

Reporter: Samantha Donovan
MARK COLVIN: This is a weird country. At the other extreme, the severe drought in north-eastern Victoria is leading one charity to put out an urgent call for donations of water.

Anglicare Victoria says it’s received more than 200 requests for help from people whose homes aren’t connected to the mains and whose tanks
and bores are dry.

Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Victoria’s north-east has suffered a string of calamities over the last few months: drought, severe frosts and then

Suzie Don Leonard is the Community Development Manager with Anglicare in north-east Victoria.

She says that some people rainwater tanks, bores and wells are completely dry.

SUZIE DON LEONARD: They are struggling, they are recycling everything they’ve got, they hardly use anything.

So a lot of people have dipped into very limited savings and they have dried that up as well, so they’ve come to us for support and assistance.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Ms Don Leonard that Anglicare Victoria has had about 200 requests for help to buy water or access donated water. 92 of those
requests came in just one week.

Anglicare is asking people to donate money so that tankers of water can be bought and delivered to those in need, or if people don’t need all their own water supply, donations of the precious resource will be gratefully received.

Suzie Don Leonard says while many families are struggling with the water shortage, there’s a hidden group that’s are really suffering.

SUZIE DON LEONARD: And they’re people who are caring for someone who is elderly who might be incontinent. There might be someone who’s on
palliative care and we found a lot of people with terminal cancers, and we found a lot of people who were on kidney dialysis who required
regular sources of good quality water.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Jenny Giles lives about 24 kilometres outside Wangaratta.

She’s completely out of tank water and is caring for her mother who is suffering from emphysema.

JENNY GILES: Yeah, it just makes a hard job that little bit extra harder. She’s not very mobile. She’s at the end of emphysema and she’s
on permanent oxygen and things like that and so just to have a shower, before I got my load of water I had to actually take her into Wangaratta
to my sister’s so she could have a shower and things like that.

So it was like a… just a trip into town and back took her a couple of days to get over.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Anglicare recently delivered Jenny Giles 16,000 litres of water which she’s rationing and hoping will last for two to three

Jim Martin, CEO of North-East Water says he was surprised to hear there are people in such a dire situation.

His authority is only responsible for mains supplies to towns, not tanks and bores.

Nonetheless, he says he wished he’d been contacted earlier to see if help was available. He’s now working with Anglicare to see if it may be possible to cart water to some properties.

MARK COLVIN: Samantha Donovan.

seepi 9:33 pm
07 Feb 07

There will be a lot more water theft if water is suddenly priced very high.

johnboy 9:40 pm
07 Feb 07


send them away for 10 years.

Ralph 9:43 pm
07 Feb 07

Think about it Seepi, it takes a fair logistical effort to steal water. And when you’re wanting to steal it, you’re wanting to steal a lot of it. It’s not comparable to fuel. People won’t be pinching a few litres here and there.

Ralph 9:45 pm
07 Feb 07

And with a price on it, people with enough water to steal will have incentive to protect their property.

el 11:16 pm
07 Feb 07

Well it couldn’t be priced any lower.

johnboy 11:55 pm
07 Feb 07

it could, but not so as you’d notice.

seepi 8:44 am
08 Feb 07

You are conveniently ingonoring the story above about people appealing to charities cos they can’t afford water at its current cost.

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