Changes to water fees and charges in the draft 2020/21 Budget are a response to welcome changes in community water consumption levels and a greater appreciation of the value of this resource, Council’s Director – Businesses, Scot MacDonald, said.
The draft Budget on public exhibition until Thursday 16 July includes increases to water access and usage charges to adjust for reduced consumption under ongoing water restrictions and its impact on financial reserve to maintain water infrastructure.
“Residents and businesses have done an incredible job responding to the water restrictions in place and reducing water consumption during the drought,” Mr MacDonald said.
“While that has been extremely valuable in protecting our region’s water supply, the reduced water sales have had a significant impact on Council’s Water Reserve to operate, maintain and upgrade our water supply assets.
Council’s actions to combat the drought also brought additional costs, including a range of water saving measures and the development of a ground water supply network at Guyra.”
He said all these factors contributed to reducing the Water Reserve by around $6 million in 2019-2020 and the impact is expected to continue in 2020/21.
At the same time, the drought has further demonstrated that Armidale and Guyra’s water infrastructure is ageing and requires significant and urgent investment to avoid failures.
“Council cannot rely on State Government funding to fix its water assets. Water fees and charges are being adjusted to undertake asset renewal, be water secure for residents and businesses, and develop water infrastructure fit for future generations,” Mr MacDonald said.
“In addition, increasing the charges applies a greater value to our water, reflecting a change in community perception and recognising water as a scarce resource.
“The increases are not aimed at generating more funds for the Water Reserve compared to previous years. They will restore the fund close to pre-drought levels, when average water consumption was much higher.”
He said there were also proposed changes to water charges as a result of a harmonisation process to ensure fees and charges are consistent throughout the local government area, and to treat the water supply network as a single system for the whole region.
The documents currently on exhibition also include the draft 2020/21 Operational Plan, featuring several capital projects to update and upgrade the region’s water infrastructure.
Those projects include an upgrade of the Puddledock Dam to Armidale pipeline and a stability upgrade of Dumaresq Dam – with both initiatives 50% funded by State Government contributions.
Further infrastructure work for a Ground Water Supply Network being developed in Guyra is also part of the draft Operational Plan, along with an assessment of options to upgrade Malpas Dam.
Other water projects in the draft Operational Plan:
• Regional Water Treatment Plant Master Plan
• Water mains replacement
• Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition Telemetry Systems
• Malpas raw water transfer pipe support repair and remediation – Stage 1
• Guyra Dam raw water pump station and switchboard
Council held a community webinar and pop-up stalls in Armidale and Guyra about the proposed water charges, upcoming water infrastructure projects and the impacts of drought on the Water Reserve.
A recording of the webinar, and other webinars being held as part of the Budget and Operational Plan exhibition period, are available to view on Council’s Your Say Armidale website.
The Your Say Armidale site also features:
• All the documents on exhibition
• A link to register for a final webinar in the series – about the new reginal landfill on Waterfall Way and proposed changes to waste charges
• Frequently asked questions about the draft Budget and Operational Plan
• Details on how to provide feedback on the documents on exhibition