Review of Tasmanian urban water and sewerage industry released
Tasmania’s independent Economic Regulator has released its third annual review of the State’s urban water and sewerage industry.
Mr Glenn Appleyard, Chairman of Tasmania’s Economic Regulator, said the report is “a comprehensive independent review of the service, quality, reliability and pricing across the industry, as can be reasonably determined with the limited data available.”
The 2009-10 report covers the performance of the new regional water corporations in delivering water and sewerage services across the State. “The corporations have faced a difficult challenge in their first year of operations, inheriting a range of problems with infrastructure that required immediate attention,” said Mr Appleyard.
“The corporations are taking actions that I expect will deliver improved outcomes across the State in the coming years”
Drinking water quality across the State remains an issue, with 24 permanent boil water alerts in place plus 16 occasions when temporary boil water alerts were issued during the year, to manage the potential risk to public health.
Mr Appleyard said, “Approximately four per cent of the Tasmanian population connected to a water supply network received drinking water that did not meet safe drinking water quality standards”.
The performance of the State’s wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) continued to be a problem, with 71 out of the 78 WWTPs underperforming against the compliance limits set by the Environment Protection Authority “Generally, year on year compliance has improved; though many of the problems with plant capacity and design persist,” said Mr Appleyard. “The industry continues to pollute the State’s rivers and coastal waters with effluent containing significant organic loads, elevated nutrients and faecal bacteria concentrations”.
In relation to financial performance, Mr Appleyard noted, “at current levels of revenue, the corporations are not financially sustainable in the long term as they will be unable to fund the replacement and maintenance of their assets over time, let alone be able to fund the significant investment required to address the current health and environmental performance issues.”
“Furthermore, the pricing structures continue to reflect previous council practices where customers across the State are required to pay a range of costs for the same service, which is inherently inequitable”.
In summary, the Tasmanian water and sewerage industry is characterised by substandard environmental and public health outcomes that have resulted from sustained under investment across the State.
Mr Appleyard said, “The framework is in place to resolve the widespread challenges currently facing the industry. However, these problems have been allowed to develop over a number of years, if not decades, and will take a similar time period to resolve".
The report is available at www.economicregulator.tas.gov.au