2019-10-09 by W.M.
Drought hits hardest when you’re paying triple for water
- Coober Pedy Council in crisis
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Coober Pedy residents could be paying water rates about three times the price of Adelaide residents, as the cash-strapped council tries to dig itself out of financial hardship.
The council is calling on the State Government to provide a temporary subsidy, to help with water costs.
With the tier one SA Water price at $2.392 per kilolitre, Coober Pedy’s price is currently $4.98/kl. Council will need to lift the price to between $7-$8/kl in the new year to cover their large costs.
Administrator Tim Jackson said Coober Pedy residents should be paying prices comparable to other areas of South Australia.
“Water is a big issue in Coober Pedy,” he said.
“Coober Pedy people are being treated differently to the rest of the state.”
The town of 1700 people is supplied water through a local system that draws water from the Great Artesian Basin and treats it through desalination and reverse osmosis before pumping it to locals’ properties.
Mr Jackson said the State Government had asked SA Water to work with the council to find a solution to the high water prices, but he felt a solution was “a long way away”.
“We’re endeavouring to have the water problem addressed but at the moment things are moving quite slowly,” he said.
“We’re asking the government to introduce a temporary subsidy that ensures we can deliver water at SA Water prices, but there’s no guarantee.”
Mr Jackson said prices would rise to between $7-$8/kl as of January 1, if no assistance from the government was forthcoming.
“Our water revenue will need to go up by about 43 per cent, which would make it three times as dear as Adelaide,” he said.
“But with our financial position, we have no alternative.”
Mr Jackson said with Coober Pedy receiving a subsidy to provide electricity in the town, he cannot see why water should be treated any differently.
“Both are essential services, it doesn’t make sense that one has a subsidy, and the other does not,” he said.
“That’s why we’re calling on the State Government to introduce a temporary subsidy, while we try and find a long-term solution.”
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Mr Jackson said other solutions could be the State Government taking on responsibility for the delivery of water in the town, and compensating the council for the acquisition of its
infrastructure, or council relinquishing its water licence and renting the infrastructure to the State Government.
Water Minister David Speirs said the State Government was sympathetic to the complex water situation facing Coober Pedy and was actively working with the council’s administrator to explore a range of solutions.
“I have recently asked SA Water to meet with officials from Coober Pedy to develop a detailed understanding of the community’s needs and I look forward to working through this further in the coming weeks and months,” he said.
Mr Jackson, a former chief executive of Playford Council, was appointed administrator in Coober Pedy in January to try and turn the district’s long-term financial problems around.