Water Meters


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (17:03): Given that there is an opportunity to speak for six minutes, I do have a very important issue to raise and it is something that I have written to the housing minister about; that is, the issue of water meters in Housing SA homes. This problem has arisen in quite a few places in my electorate where Housing SA homes share meters. So, you might have two dwellings with one water meter. The water supply comes in through one meter and then is diverted to two dwellings. The largest example that I am aware of is where 19 dwellings share one meter. I can understand that there is not always money to spend on all the things that you would like, but I point out the difficulty that that can cause the people living in those homes, both in a financial sense and the use of water.

This problem has arisen quite a few times in the electorate of Stuart. It is a very important thing. I give the simple example of two homes sharing a meter. One home has one person living in it and one home has a very large family, with lots of friends and visitors coming and going and using the water in that house. That is a difficult issue to deal with when the standard practice is to take the total amount of water that goes through that one meter, deduct 30 per cent off each bill (which I think is lovely for those people) and then the balance is split 50-50 between those two dwellings.

It may be the case that there is one person living in one home and not doing any gardening and another very large family living in the other home and using lots of water, including for gardening and perhaps a kiddie pool and that sort of thing, yet they still split the bill 50-50. The most concerning example, which is a very recent one, is that of a lady who lives in Port Augusta in exactly that sort of situation. Her share of the water bill was $500. That is an enormous impost for a senior lady to bear—for one person living in one dwelling—when, very likely, the other home is using perhaps four, five or six times as much water as she is.

It is a difficult issue when you have up to 19 dwellings sharing one water meter, so the total water bill comes in, a percentage discount is taken off, and whatever is left over is split evenly between 19 homes. There may be examples that I am not aware of where there are even more homes on the one meter. So what I propose is that the government looks not at putting a new meter on every single home because, while that would be tremendous, that may not be affordable at the moment—I am always aware of the need to balance budgets—but, certainly, if perhaps where there are just two, three or four homes on the one water meter it would be possible for the government to spend the $200, $300 or $400 required to put separate meters in those homes and make things more equitable.

It would be more equitable from the point of view of sharing the bill so that you do not have one lady living by herself getting a $500 bill. No doubt the other family got a $500 bill as well but, certainly, there is no way they would have used the same amount of water. It would be equitable with regard to sharing the fair cost of the water and also equitable with regard to the use of water across the state. When people are in a situation where they are sharing the cost of water, unless they are confident that their neighbour sharing the same water meter is also being diligent about conserving water, it is human nature to think that there is no need to be too efficient. That is no good for the state.

We all understand the importance of water and that it is the most valuable resource we have in our state, and we all understand how much pressure we are under as a state to conserve water but, when you are getting a $500 water bill and you are just using one person's worth of water, it sure takes away your incentive to be economical in your use of water. Also, if you are only going to pay 50 per cent of the water bill regardless of how much you, your large family, friends and visitors use, there is no incentive, based on most people's human nature, to try to conserve water, either.

It needs to be equitable both with regard to sharing the bills fairly and also the need to try to use a sensible amount of water in every home throughout the state. That does not matter whether it is a Housing SA home or a very large, opulent house: everyone has a responsibility to try to reduce their use of water. So I think that, if it was possible to adjust the meters in this way, it would contribute to both those key issues.


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