I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Water on the subject of SA Water's residential leaks policy.
4 June 2013
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yesterday my office was contacted by a constituent at Dernancourt whose neighbour's property has had a leak. SA Water instructed them to get a plumber, which they duly did, and then discovered that, because it was a meter fault, it was a requirement that SA Water fix it. That was some 2½ weeks ago and the fault was corrected yesterday. The estimated loss of water is in the hundreds of kilolitres.
In comparison, on Eyre Peninsula, there have been reports of several customers who have contacted SA Water regarding leaks, one in particular whose usual usage is six to 10 kilolitres a quarter and who had been billed for 176 kilolitres. She said, 'We have no idea where the water is going. We called SA Water and they told us we must have a leak and to do the leakage test, which we did.' Subsequently, the test showed that there was no leak. Another constituent had a similar issue and stated, 'SA Water is really unhelpful, you try to tell them and explain and they don't want to know you.' My questions for the minister are:
1.Why is it okay for SA Water to wait several weeks to fix leaks when it charges customers exorbitant amounts for the same issue?
2.Does SA Water incur any penalty for leaks?
3.Does SA Water have a cultural problem in being unhelpful towards its residential customers?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:48): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. I am advised that SA Water receives quite a large number of high water usage inquiries from customers who feel that the amount of water use appearing on their account may not be correct. First of all, it should be noted that SA Water is not responsible for ensuring that a customer's private pipework is correctly maintained. SA Water's responsibility ends at the meter and private pipework is the responsibility of the owner.
However, SA Water provides assistance to residential customers through a leakage allowance where there is a leak on the property and a high water use allowance where water use is abnormal or unexplained. I understand that there is no legislative requirement for SA Water to provide such allowances, but they offer it in the interest of good customer relations—good customer relations that SA Water prides itself on and tries to improve on.
This is primarily as an encouragement to customers to maintain their private pipework in good condition and prevent unnecessary wastage of water. I understand that this policy provides SA Water customers with an allowance of 50 per cent of the deemed water wasted due to a concealed leak in a customer's private pipework provided certain conditions are met. Under this policy only one allowance in 10 years can be approved for properties continuing in the same ownership, and leakage allowances are also not to be granted to properties under a supply-by-measure agreement or properties served by temporary, remote or indirect water connections.
Leakage allowances are also not available to commercial properties. This is because water use prices applying to commercial properties are based on a single-tier structure rather than the three-tier structure applying to residential properties. It is also considered that commercial properties are able to seek taxation relief not available to residential customers. I am advised that exceptions to these guidelines may be made under extenuating circumstances, including where the customer is a concession holder, is in financial hardship, is elderly or has a disability resulting in the leak not being detected or where there are special circumstances preventing repairs to be undertaken within a prescribed period.
The payment of leakage allowances has a significant financial impact on SA Water and I am advised that both applications for leakage allowances and the financial cost of these allowances have significantly increased over the last few years. For instance, I am advised that in the 2012-13 financial year to date, SA Water has received 1,504 applications and has provided allowances of just over $1 million. The full year estimate cost is around $1.3 million, I am told.
I am advised that this year SA Water has rejected 544 leakage allowance claims that were assessed as not meeting the eligibility criteria. SA Water expects the number of leakage allowance applications to continue to increase, as it has experienced over the past few years. SA Water will continue to assess the financial impact of this allowance, and I am advised that a further review of the policy will be undertaken in the second half of the 2013-14 financial year.
Again, SA Water customers are responsible for maintaining their own pipework, but all concerned SA Water customers, if they have concerns about their water usage, should contact SA Water as a priority.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:51): How many high water usage queries does SA Water get every year and how many megalitres are lost through SA Water's pipe network per annum?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:52): I thank the honourable member for her very important supplementary question. As I do not have those figures at hand, I will have to take that question on notice and bring back a response for her.
10 September 2013
In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (4 June 2013).
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation): As the Minister for Water and the River Murray, I have received this advice:
SA Water received the following high water usage queries from 2010 to 2013:
No. of high water usage queries
Water lost through SA Water pipe network in 2011-12 was estimated to be 24,117 megalitres, which includes water loss through background leakage and water main breaks.