The Cost of Water and Sewerage Compared; England vs. Australia

Before I embark on what many of you will regard as a rant, I would like to just say that I am looking at the price of water and sewerage services as, right now, here in Australia, the soaring cost of our utilities is causing great concern around the country. I have already spoken about this in my post about the soaring price of electricity.

And the rising cost of water is particularly worrying when you consider that all the dams are now full and, as can be seen in this post, they have been pouring water back into the river just lately. Ok, let’s rant!

The Cost of Water and Sewerage Services Compared

A glass og water

Like most people these days I use Google for a good deal of my research. Just think back to the old days for a moment, try to remember a time when we didn’t have Google? Life was tough then! We used to have to go to the library or make phone calls and all sorts just to find stuff out.

Not any more. But some things are easier to find out through Google than others. Here’s an example, I asked….

“What is the price of a kilogram bag of sugar in Australia?”

And in the search results I got I could see without needing to click a link that a 2 kg bag of sugar cost $2.89. Drilling a little deeper, about 40 seconds later I have my price; $1.55 for a one kilo bag from Coles.

If you were to go down to Coles, that’s pretty much what you would pay.” End of story.

Thank you Google.

But what happened when I tried to find out the cost of water and sewerage services in both Australia and England. Surely it’s just a simple case of asking? So I asked……

“What is the cost of water per kilolitre in Australia?”

Glancing through the results it appeared as though I was on another easy mission. The cost per kilolitre is around one dollar said one. 89 cents said another. Another said, 97 cents and a fourth said $1.20. Most of these links were to PDF files that needed downloading to read them. Some had just a few pages but others 30 or more.

I was beginning to dig a hole. But not to worry, I can dig around, I’ll get to the bottom of it. And my findings?

Then I discovered that the price of water in England is just as well hidden behind PDF files and complicated pricing plans as it is here, making it almost impossible to do any kind of comparison at all. Surely the big water companies around the world aren’t trying to make it difficult for us to compare the costs, are they?

What do I mean by complicated pricing plans?

Well Yorkshire water has a wonderful website and it has a widget on it inviting visitors to ask questions. Underneath that widget are the most popular questions ever asked. Top of the list? This question…

What are your charges?

Hmmm, straight forward question. As it is a link, you’d think that clicking on it would give us the charges. Oh no! It just opens the helpdesk where you have to ask the question again. Does that give you the answer? Well if you think this is the answer….

‘We take a meter reading or make an estimate based on how much water you usually use at that time of year. So, you pay for the water you use in arrears. We then add a standing charge for the quarter, for example from 1st April to 30th June, so you’ll usually pay some of it in advance.

If we provide sewerage services to your home, we’ll also make a sewerage charge based on how much water you use plus a sewerage standing charge.’

You are then invited to click on a link which eventually leads to, yes, you’ve guessed it, a PDF file to download. This one is just five pages long but within those pages manages to talk about and give prices for standing charges, rateable value charges, volume charges, fixed charges and rotary piston meter size charges, including inferential meter sizes.

I’m not joking. And if you want to know the cost of sewerage services from the same company, read on. They talk about surface drainage and non-surface drainage, household standing charges and non-household charges, surface areas in square metres with eight different bandings, metered and non-metered charges, volume charges, fixed charges, and more about rotary piston meter size charges, including inferential meter sizes as well as information on pricing for trade effluent.

Well, that’ll teach us for asking the cost!

If nothing else, I hope that with my ramblings I have got the message across that doing a price comparison between England and Australia for the cost of water and sewerage services is not easy. Because in addition to Yorkshire water there are many more regional water companies in the UK and here in Australia I imagine there are at least eight different state suppliers.

Realising my life was slowly draining away, I decided to simply look at my own bills. Of course, my bills from England are now four or five years old. But my Australian ones are up-to-date and this is what I paid for water and sewerage services over the last 12 months.

Water Prices AustraliaSo in total I paid $865 in the last year to Urban Utilities who now provide us with our water. In fairness, because of the high usage in water from quarter of two*, see my post about our burst pipe for explanation, I could adjust those figures to take that out. My yearly water and sewerage bill would then become $830.

But in the year before that I used to pay my water directly to Brisbane City Council. In that year I paid a total of $723 for similar usage. So since the council have handed the provision of our water over to another company, prices seem to have gone up by almost 15%. And that is what is causing the problems here.

Next I dug out my old bills from back in England. I used 135 m³ of water in the year. A cubic metre of water is at exactly the same as one kilolitre. This is very similar to the 145 m³ of water I’ve used in the last year.

My bill in England for the year September 2006 to September 2007 was £129.

The only bills I could find for my sewerage services were from March 2006 through to March 2007 and came to a total of £180.

So we are now comparing £309 for bills that are three to four years old with a bill today of $830. But how much have prices of water and sewerage gone up in England since then?

I visited a price calculator in the UK and based on 135 kilolitres it suggested my bill would be £375.

So that’s probably about as close we can get to a comparison. In England you pay £375 and here it’s about $830.

So if you are using a direct currency exchange comparison, with the pound currently only worth $1.60 then water here in Australia is about 38% more expensive than back in England.

But if you’re talking in terms of cost compared by average annual salary, then it would take you 28 hours and 20 minutes to earn the money to pay your bill in England, and 26 hours and 45 minutes to do the same here in Australia.

So which country has the cheapest water and sewerage services? I don’t know! Which is exactly what the fat cats company owners from each country who run these utilities want! Well done!

But if I were to take a guess, it does appear that probably water prices in England are slightly cheaper.

I would like to thank the governing bodies in our respective countries, OFWAT in the UK and IPART here in Australia for making this post so easy to write. Thanks for flexing your muscles. I can’t imagine how complicated it might have been without you.

Cheers!

Note: if you know how much you paid for your water over the last year, why not tell us where you are, how much water you used and what it cost. Maybe together we can make more sense of it.

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Lucas July 15, 2015, 3:02 pm | Link

    Fixed charge Gold Coast Australia in 2015 is $937.2 p/y
    + water consumption charged @ $3.80 p/kL
    probably the most expensive water in the world.

    • Mat July 15, 2015, 4:51 pm | Link

      Only $3.80 p/kL and you think that’s the most expensive. Here in the UK people living in South West Water’s region which covers Devon and Cornwall complain about the cost of water. They pay a fixed charge of £81.18 p/a for the supply of water, sewerage, surface and highway drainage. That’s not too bad but the cost of the actual water and sewerage/drainage itself is one of the highest anywhere in the UK. £5.3246 p/kL. Ouch… Figure that one out in hard yakka. A household of 4 using the South West waters regions average of 136L/day would generate an annual bill of £1,138 or £95/month. Average household income in the South West is £24,400. 4.7% of your gross annual income just on the water, sewerage, surface drainage bill. You need to work for 2 hours a week just to pay the water bill. Luckily most other places in the UK have much cheaper water.

      I live in a 2 bedroom flat in Burton upon Trent in the South Staffs Water region and the 2 of us use very little water at an average of 75L/pppd mainly due to having no outside water usage at all and pay £78.22 p/a for supply and £1.9612 p/kL. The annual bill comes to £186 with a monthly direct debit set as £15.50. Hard yakka terms it’s just 22 minutes a week for me earning wages at £9.75/hour.

      Water bills are hard to compare fairly even within the one country.

      • BobinOz July 16, 2015, 12:08 am | Link

        It is indeed very difficult to compare fairly between one country and another, it’s difficult enough to compare from county to county or state to state. In fact it’s difficult to even understand water bills.

        I’m going to try and decipher the information to figure out which out of the Gold Coast and South West Water is the most expensive. The first thing to clear up is that when Mat says “136L/day” I think he has missed off the per person bit, so it’s actually 544 L/day, which would be about right for a four person family.

        Here in Brisbane, according to my bill, the average consumption per family per day is around 400 L/day. Or 146 kL per year, let’s call that 150 kL. So, if my maths is correct…

        On the Gold Coast, that would be 150 times $3.80 plus $937 = $1507

        Over at South West Water, that would be 150 times £5.32 = £798 converted to AUD which is about double that amount at the moment, let’s call it $1600. Add in the £81.18 per annum (is that really right? Or is it per quarter?) means an additional $160 or so, making the total around $1760.

        So, Lucas, the Gold Coast probably doesn’t have the most expensive water in the world, South West Water is, in this example, more expensive, but only if you’re using somewhere close to 150 kL per year or more. If you’re living on your own, using 136L/day, well that would be a different story.

        Sounds like you are both paying through the proverbial nose, but I have to say the Gold Coast with that ridiculously high fixed charge takes the biscuit, does it really apply to everyone? Including a pensioner living on their own?

        If it does, they should be ashamed of themselves.

        By the way, on the same figures we’ve used above, my bill would be about $1082.

  • David Fletcher May 9, 2014, 7:58 am | Link

    Damnnnnnn

    We pay equivalent to £90 every 6 months in NZ!!!

  • Brad September 24, 2013, 3:42 pm | Link

    Unity water has increased its price i live in redcliffe and it has gone from 17c kl to 64c kl but they now deem that 90% is sewarge and will charge 64c kl for it to go down the drain it is a digrace.

    • BobinOz September 24, 2013, 8:38 pm | Link

      That sounds cheap to me, here in Brisbane Urban Utilities charge me what appears to be a fixed fee of $123 per quarter for sewerage, and I am paying $2.05 per kl for drinking water, I used 21 kl last quarter and they charged me $43. Then there’s a water access charge, water usage charge, and by the time they’ve added all these charges, the bill came to $224.23.

      I reckon you might have it lucky with Unity Water, what was your bill last quarter?

      • Brad September 25, 2013, 12:31 pm | Link

        $400 was my last bill up from $270 my house use 545 lt a day i still have all the fixed charges including sewarage our local paper just did a comparrison to brisbane and our fixed charges are $179 more exspensive per qt than Brisbane.

        • BobinOz September 25, 2013, 9:46 pm | Link

          Gosh, that’s a lot of fixed charges, and as your bill is about $176 higher than mine, looks like that comparison you did is about right. Maybe you should move to the Brisbane area :-)?

  • Sarah April 17, 2013, 10:41 am | Link

    Hi Bob

    How much do you pay approximately for just water consumption per quarter more recently? We’re looking at renting and it seems now we’d be responsible for the water so wanted to get an idea of what it would cost us. It would be for a 4 bed with pool in Brissie so guessing it might be similar to what you pay.
    Thanks
    Sarah

    • BobinOz April 17, 2013, 6:11 pm | Link

      Hi Sarah

      Yes, I think the landlord is responsible for certain charges regarding water, certainly all of the sewerage access charges, but then there are three other charges for water on my bill. There is the State Bulk Water Price, that was $84 for the quarter, then there is the Water Usage Charges, they were $27 for the quarter and then finally there are the Fix Access Charges, they were $42 for the quarter.

      If it is down to you to pay it all, then you are looking at around $150 per quarter, but I have a feeling the landlord has to pay at least one of these charges, not sure which though.

      Check with the letting agents to find out exactly which bits you have to pay for, hope that helps.

      Cheers

      Bob

      • Sarah April 17, 2013, 7:46 pm | Link

        Thanks Bob. That is really helpful.

        Just waiting for the agency to get back to me to find out which bit we’d be liable for. They said sometimes you just pass for excess water consumption. At least we know what the worst case scenario would be….

        Sarah

  • nic July 12, 2011, 12:01 am | Link

    It’s a minefield!

    I’ve paid £354 in the last 12 months for water & sewage in the UK. This is for a 3 bedroom house with 2 adults living there.

    • BobinOz July 18, 2011, 9:43 pm | Link

      Hi nic

      Sounds like your costs were pretty similar to mine when I was in the UK. There really doesn’t seem to be too much in it between the two countries, and both are a minefield!

    • Matt May 27, 2013, 4:25 am | Link

      I pay about $620/year in America, equivalent to about £408/year, with three adults. Not much difference here either.

      • BobinOz May 27, 2013, 7:45 pm | Link

        No, not much difference is there? Cheers Matt

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