National parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manages, operates and supplies potable drinking water supply to paying connections to businesses/residences and non-paying connections to NPWS buildings or NPWS visitor infrastructure. All connections have water meters which are read and recorded quarterly for invoicing. Potable water is supplied under a Drinking Water Quality Assurance Program and regulated by NSW Health. There are significant obligations as a supplier of potable water relating to the quality of water released to the public.
Paying customers are connected to the sewerage system which is connected to both privately owned and NPWS tenanted properties. The sewerage system also supports NPWS visitor facilities and currently vacant NPWS owned buildings, some of which are earmarked for future leasing.
In 2014 an initial analysis and Scope of Work to develop an appropriate contemporary pricing structure to reflect partial cost recovery was developed by City Water Technology. The Long-Term Utilities Management Plan in 2015 identified the capital and recurrent investments required to maintain the drinking water and sewerage supply systems into the future. Significant upgrades to the drinking water system undertaken during the peak of the drought were based on recommendations of this plan. Long term water supply certainty from the aquifer is unknown – management measures aimed at moderating water use to better ensure ongoing water supply are essential.
In 2020 City Water Technology was contracted to evaluate the costs and revenues from the initial 2014 report and update the Hill End Water and Sewerage System Review Utilities Pricing Structure.
The report identified that water and sewer supply is operated at considerable financial loss and justified the need to implement a contemporary pricing structure to achieve equitable cost recovery based on review of charges applied by local government in similar supply situations. The stepped pricing structure applies a higher use fee for high water use in an effort to encourage customers to adopt sustainable water use practices.
What has changed?
The changes are intended to implement a utilities pricing structure that is consistent with the Best Practice Management of Water Supply and Sewage Guidelines August 2007, that is implemented in NSW Local Government Areas by Local Water Utilities. While NPWS is not classified as a Local Water Utility the Guidelines are the industry standard and have been used as the basis for this change.
The new cost structure is based on an access fee plus a usage charge with the usage charge increasing above a threshold to encourage water conservation. The access fees and usage charges for water supply will be adjusted over a 5-year period to achieve cost recovery from the current 8% to 13.6% by 2026.
Sewerage service charges are being adjusted to match equivalent Bathurst charges cost recovery of 13.6% commencing February 2022 and 15.9% cost recovery from 2022-23. The significant change in this instance is the move from charges per toilet to charges based on sewerage service connection and usage.
Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases are applicable in successive years.
A Customer Use Agreement is being implemented so that users are aware of shared obligations relating to the use of the system and the services that National Parks and Wildlife Service is providing.