In its latest submission to the ACT’s economic regulator, Icon Water has sought a price rise of around $87 a year for the average household water bill, citing inflation, “economic conditions outside of [its] control” and the cost of upgrading ageing infrastructure.
The submission is being reviewed by the Independent Competition and Regulator (ICRC).
Icon Water’s price rise is higher than those outlined earlier this year in the ICRC’s draft decision.
In October, the regulator directed water prices should increase by about $50 a year or 4.2 per cent between 2023 and 2028.
At the time, the ICRC attributed the increase to the effect of Icon Water’s large planned investment in sewage treatment, increases in costs including wages, insurance, electricity and chemicals, the cost of debt and forecast inflation in the 2023-28 regulatory period.
But Icon Water now wants prices to rise by 6.5 per cent per annum over the same period.
That’s an increase of $1.67 a week in 2023-24 ($86.84 a year) for a typical residential customer consuming 200 kilolitres of water per year.
In a statement, Icon Water managing director Ray Hezkial said the provider was doing everything possible to keep prices as low as possible.
He said higher inflation and operational cost pressures, including higher insurance costs, were driving a “significant proportion” of the increase in water and wastewater prices.
“Over the next five years, Canberra has a critical window to upgrade wastewater facilities largely built in the 1960s and 1970s,” he said.
“Icon Water has been progressively planning for essential upgrades to these core elements and other components of the city’s network and treatment systems.”
Mr Hezkial said this proposal had been informed by extensive consultation with more than 17,500 Canberrans, confirming that customers’ top priority was water security.
“The Icon Water submission proposes a sensible, rigorously assessed investment program that focuses on renewing and upgrading critical infrastructure to ensure continued quality services for our community whilst laying a sustainable platform for future generations,” he said.
“Our proposed projects will also help increase our resilience as a community to increasing climate volatility and protect our environment.
“If we delay investment now it will reduce prices slightly over the next five years, but it will be more costly in the long run, and it means future generations will have to pay higher prices.”
Mr Hezkial acknowledged Canberrans were feeling the pinch as the cost of living continued to rise.
He said a range of supports is available and encouraged anyone struggling to pay their bills to reach out for assistance.
The ICRC will review submissions before it formally sets the wastewater and water prices which will apply from 1 June 2023 next year.