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
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.
So 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.
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.