Render 3d: tap and water drop
Render 3d: tap and water drop RomoloTavani

Saved by the bill: Gympie dodges water price pain

GYMPIE residents have dodged a liquid bullet, with the region to escape water price increases that will hit other areas by up to $90 total over the next three years.

Although the Queensland Competition Authority has recommended the state's bulk water charge be increased to repay debt, Gympie will avoid being slugged, thanks to a unique arrangement with Seqwater.

While many other council areas buy their water through bulk supply, Gympie Regional Council instead purchases the region's supply through an irrigation scheme - the Mary Valley Water Supply Scheme.

"Gympie Regional Council is an exceptional case, in that it is purchasing urban water supply through an irrigation scheme, not through the standard bulk water supply,” Bond University water law researcher Professor Victoria Baumfield said.

The report, which was made public by the State Government this week, revealed residents across the state's southeast corner will face higher prices over the next three years.

At the far end of the scale, residents in the Redland City Council area will face an increase of about $90 over that period. Residents of the Sunshine Coast and Noosa would pay about $80 more.

The price in other southeast areas would rise by about $50. The increase would help cover a debt of about $10 billion, created by the construction of the southeast Queensland water grid.

And Gympie will avoid this pain, at least for now.

However, this did not mean Gympie's water prices would remain frozen for the next two years.

Dr Victoria Baumfield, Bond University.
Dr Victoria Baumfield. Bond University

"Gympie Regional Council s prices for water under the irrigation scheme will continue to go up, but currently it appears that they will only be rising at a level roughly equivalent to the rate of inflation, as opposed to real increases,” Prof Baumfield said.

This could be about 2.5 per cent in each of 2017/18 and 2018/19.

But after that?

"It is impossible to say for sure what will happen after 2019,” Prof Baumfield said.

”If projected costs for delivering the Mary Valley WSS were to decrease, prices could theoretically go down.

"But assuming that they stay stable, then presumably prices will continue to go up by the cost of inflation in order for prices to continue covering Seqwater's costs in delivering the scheme.

"So my prediction is that prices will continue to rise, but that the price rises will be much more reasonable than those experienced by Seqwater's bulk water customers unless it is necessary to install expensive new infrastructure, which will then have to be paid for.”

At present, though, Prof Baumfield said there was "no indication” that new infrastructure was planned.