Lower bills for Wannon Water customers

19 June 2018

Wannon Water customers can look forward to lower bills until 2023 with the average householder paying a maximum of $1110 and tenants $201 a year.

The announcement by Victoria’s independent regulator, the Essential Services Commission (ESC), follows an extensive Price Submission process outlining Wannon Water’s activities and investments and the maximum prices it will charge customers from 2018 to 2023.

Wannon Water Managing Director Andrew Jeffers said the decision means that average bills for household customers will have actually declined by 12 per cent over the past six years - from $1262 to $1110.

Wannon Water bill

“Through a concerted effort, Wannon Water has kept prices stable despite a number of challenges including the fact that we have the second largest operating area of Victorian water corporations and have to pump water significant distances to provide services to customers,” Mr Jeffers said.

“We have 46 metres of water mains per customer – the highest in the state – placing increasing pressure on operating costs and asset renewal costs.

“Growth in new customer numbers is very low compared to other water corporations, so our ability to absorb cost increases through new revenue is also limited.

To help offset these challenges and keep bills low, Wannon Water has committed to finding efficiencies of $2.6 million over the five-year period. Areas that will come under the spotlight include energy costs, goods and services, and investment in technology. It will also investigate working with industry and collaborative purchasing to reduce costs.

Employee numbers will remain stable at 207 equivalent full-time staff.

“An exciting new initiative is our Water for Community program which recognises the mental, physical and social benefits created through green public open spaces and sporting facilities,” Mr Jeffers said.

It will support not-for-profit organisations such as recreation reserves, sporting facilities, showgrounds and swimming pools, providing rebates of up to 40 per cent, representing annual savings of up to $7242 for each organisation.

Mr Jeffers said the Price Submission was built upon the feedback received through a record level of engagement with customers and the community. This included more than 3000 instances of engagement through surveys, small group forums, community events, meetings, interviews and a deliberative forum.

“Although we heard that 88 per cent of customers are satisfied with the water quality they receive from Wannon Water, we want to do even better. Over the next five years we will continue to improve the taste, smell, hardness and clarity of the drinking water in our region,” Mr Jeffers said.

The corporation will also continue to protect and enhance the environment. The submission includes $2.1 million for projects that will reduce its carbon emissions, consistent with a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2050. “This will save $1.2 million in annual operating costs with minimal impact on customer bills, which is consistent with what we heard from our customers.”

Wannon Water will also invest more than $160 million in capital works projects over the next five years to pave the way for long-term regional growth and investment.

The commitment includes the water corporation’s largest-ever single project, a $30-$40 million upgrade of the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant, expanding its capacity by 50 per cent to cater for projected increases in domestic and industrial in the next 20-plus years.

“About 50 per cent of the current flow through the plant comes from three major industrial users and, by 2040, this is expected to increase to between 65 and 70 per cent of capacity,” Mr Jeffers said.

“Economic modelling shows the expansion of the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant will support industrial growth in south-west Victoria, representing 1,512 new ongoing jobs, $199 million in annual added value and an annual increase in exports of $196 million.”

Other major projects planned during the five-year period include:

• The construction of a new water tower in the Wangoom Road area to cater for residential demand in the area north-east of Warrnambool - $4.3 million.
• New facilities in Hamilton to manage biosolids for beneficial re-use - $3.5 million.
• New facilities in Camperdown to manage biosolids for beneficial re-use - $2.8 million.
• A new water supply bore at Port Campbell to increase water security - $2 million
• A comprehensive water and sewer renewals program across the region - $70 million, and
• New assets to cater for growth - $52 million.