Financial wellbeing

Water costs

child running through water stream

In this section you will find information to help you provide advice to clients who may be struggling with water costs. The information covers what to do if you or your client:

  • Would like more information on water prices in Queensland
  • Need help to read a water bill
  • Can’t pay a water bill
  • Have received a high water bill
  • Want to know about rights as a tenant paying for water
  • Have a complaint related to water

QCOSS has released water fact sheets which you can print to hand out to clients.

Water prices and charges

Most water and sewerage charges are made up of a fixed access charge for water, a fixed access charge for sewerage, and a variable price per kilolitre which is charged depending on how much water is used. However, the charges can vary depending on where you live. Charges vary as the cost of providing water varies across different regions in Queensland.

In most parts of the state, the water utility is the local council, and water bills are often combined with the local council rates bill. The exception to this is in South East Queensland (SEQ), where water bills are separate to rates notices.

Water charges in South East Queensland

In South East Queensland (SEQ), there is an additional charge known as the State Bulk Water Charge. This charge is set by the Queensland Government and covers the cost of bulk water supply provided by Seqwater. It is a variable charge so how much a customer pays in State Bulk Water Charges depends on how much water they use.

Customers in SEQ might have noticed that water prices have increased in recent years. One of the reasons for this is that the State Bulk Water Charge has been increasing to pay for new infrastructure, including the Tugun Desalination Plant, Western Corridor Recycled Water Plant and a number of new pipelines. More information on the State Bulk Water Charge can be found on the Queensland Government website.

Information on the residential water and sewerage charges across SEQ can be found by visiting the following websites of each water provider:

How to read a water bill

While some information on water bills is standard, the layout and terminology may differ between water providers. Some water providers and local councils provide advice on how to read their water bills. See the retailers’ websites for more information:

Can’t pay a water bill

Payment plans

If you are unable to pay your water and sewerage bill by the due date it is important to contact your water provider as soon as possible. Unlike electricity, you cannot be disconnected from water supply. However, some water providers may restrict your water flow to your home if you do not pay your bills. They are also permitted to charge interest at up to 11 per cent per annum compounding daily on any amount owing after the due date.

Under the South East Queensland Customer Water and Wastewater code, water providers in South East Queensland (SEQ) must have a financial hardship policy which includes offering flexible and affordable payment plans and turning interest charges off while you pay off the debt.

If you live outside SEQ, you should contact your local authority as soon as possible and discuss payment options with them to pay off the bill. The Water and WasteWater Code does not apply outside of SEQ so water providers are not required to have a financial hardship policy. However many of them may take financial difficulties into account and work out payment arrangements to assist their customers to pay their water bills.

Concessions and rebates

The Queensland Government provides a Pensioner Water Subsidy of up to $120 per year to assist eligible households in South East Queensland (SEQ) to meet the costs of their water bills. To be eligible for this concession, you must hold a Commonwealth Pensioner Concession Card or Department of Veterans’ Affairs Health Card. The subsidy is not available to tenants or customers outside SEQ. For more details visit the Queensland Government website.

Some water utilities offer financial assistance to customers who use haemodialysis machines to help with the water costs associated with their medical condition. Contact your water utility to find out more.

To find out more about concessions, or to apply through you water utility or local council, visit your provider’s website:

What to do if you have received a high water bill

With the price of water increasing in many parts of Queensland, reducing your water consumption is one way to prevent getting high water bills in the future. Households can reduce the amount of water they use by:

  • Reducing the amount of water used in the shower by installing a low-flow shower head and limiting showers to four minutes or less
  • Only using the washing machine or dishwasher for full loads and always using the shortest, most efficient cycle.
  • Upgrading an old washing machine or dishwasher to a more water efficient model. Interest-free or low-interest loans are available through both the:
  • No Interest Loan Scheme
  • Step-Up Loan

These programs can help you buy a new appliance and pay it off over time.

For more information and advice on saving water visit the Queensland Government website.

Concealed leaks

Leaking taps, toilets or underground pipes can waste water and result in an expensive water bill if the problem is not identified early. Customers who are aware of their water use and are vigilant about leaks can help save water and prevent unexpectedly large water bills.

What is a concealed leak?

A concealed leak is a water leak that is concealed from view. These leaks occur on the customer’s property and are generally caused by cracked water pipes – either underground or inside walls. The definition of a concealed leak can vary between water providers, but a concealed leak generally does not include:

  • Leaking taps, toilet cisterns, hot water systems or water appliances.
  • Faulty plumbing or human error resulting in the filling of a water tank.
  • Property sprinkler or other irrigation systems.
  • Swimming pools, spas, outdoor water features or related fittings.

Water customers are responsible for the water and sewerage infrastructure on their property. This means the water provider is not responsible for the cost of the water which is lost due to a concealed leak. This can result in an expensive household water bill if the problem is not identified early.

What can my water provider do to help?

Under the South East Queensland (SEQ) Water and Wastewater Customer Code, all SEQ water providers must have a concealed leaks policy. Some water businesses outside SEQ also have concealed leak policies. These should be available on their website or by calling the water provider. While these policies can vary, most of them will contain:

  • Definition of what is a concealed leak (compared to a general leak).
  • How to physically identify concealed leaks.
  • What remission or assistance is provided by the water company.

Some water retailers offer a remission on the account relating to the increased water use as a result of the concealed leak. Policies vary between retailers in terms of who is eligible and the proportion of the account that is remitted. However, generally remissions are only provided once. It is important to check the concealed leaks policy as not all customers will be eligible for assistance.

Some water providers will require a statutory declaration from a licensed plumber to confirm that the works comply with the relevant legislation and plumbing standards before they will provide any kind of remission payments to assist.

Water providers that do not have a remission program for concealed water leaks may still assist by providing customers with a payment plan to help pay off the cost of the concealed leak in smaller, more manageable instalments.

See the water providers’ websites for information on concealed leaks.

Tips for identifying and managing water leaks

Visit the providers’ websites for information from each water provider on identifying and managing water leaks. Also, visit Yarra Valley Water’s website for a simple two-minute test to check for a concealed leak.

Tenants rights as a water user

Not every tenant in Queensland is responsible for paying charges relating to the water they use. However, landlords are permitted to pass on some water-related costs to their tenants.

Under the Residential Tenancy and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, landlords are permitted to pass on the cost of the water their tenant uses on the condition that:

  • The property has its own individual water meter (or water is delivered by vehicle), and
  • The property meets a number of criteria around the water efficiency of internal taps, toilets and showerheads, and
  • The tenancy agreement states the tenant must pay for water consumption.

If these conditions are not met, the landlord may still be able to charge for water used in excess of ‘reasonable’ usage. The amount that is considered ‘reasonable’ is set out and agreed in the tenancy agreement.

Note: Tenants can only be charged the water usage component of the bill – not the fixed charges or sewerage charges. Landlords cannot pass on any other fees and charges, including late payment fees.

Water efficiency requirements

A rental premises is considered water efficient if the water fixtures meet certain standards. For information on what the requirements are visit the Residential Tenancy Authority website.

Process for paying for water consumption

Tenants do not receive a water bill directly from the local water service provider. The landlord will receive and pay the bill, and then seek reimbursement from the tenant for the water consumption component of the bill.

The landlord must provide the tenant with a copy of the water bill or other evidence of the amount of water consumed to verify the amount being charged. The tenant then has one month to pay the amount owing.

Access to concessions and hardship arrangements

As tenants are not direct customers of a water utility, they are not covered by the concessions and hardship arrangements that apply to home-owners.

If tenants are experiencing difficulties paying for their water usage, they may contact their landlord who may be willing to negotiate a payment arrangement.

More information

The Residential Tenancy Authority (RTA) is a Queensland Government authority that provides information and services related to residential tenancies. They also provide a free and impartial dispute resolution service. For more information, call 1300 366 311 or visit the RTA website.

Tenants Queensland offers tenancy advice, support or individual advocacy through their Queensland Statewide Tenancy Advice and Referral Service (QSTARS). Visit the QSTARS website here or call them on 1300 744 263.

Making a complaint about your water bill or service

All complaints related to billing, service or supply of water or sewerage services should be directed to your water service provider in the first instance.

Customers in South East Queensland who have been unable to resolve a water or sewerage complaint with the water provider can lodge a complaint with the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland (EWOQ). To contact EWOQ, call 1800 662 837 or visit the EWOQ website.

There are some issues the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland cannot investigate, such as bulk hot water problems or tenant disputes. Visit the Energy and Water Complaints Wizard to find out which agency is responsible for a complaint.

Customers outside South East Queensland who are unable to resolve a complaint with the local water authority can contact the Queensland Ombudsman. To contact the Ombudsman, call 1800 068 908 or visit the Ombudsman website.

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