How water meters saved the city

By: Blogger

Straight from city council
A personal view,
by Councillor Steve Morris

Writing a weekly column has its risks, as I’m sure the last two former councillors who wrote this column could attest! For politicians, the instinct toward self-preservation is strong. There can be the temptation not to raise your head above the trenches and discuss too openly the challenges your community faces.

To do so invites the wrath of whoever that particular week fears “losing out” if the great allocation of your rates money changes. I reflected on this as I filled my 10,000 litre pool this summer and the less generous side of my nature wouldn’t have protested too much if my neighbours were sharing the cost under the old system without water meters.

In 1999 the council of the day made the courageous decision to install meters and a ‘user-pays’ system. It was an acrimonious issue muddied with ‘alternative facts’ resulting in a referendum opposing water meters. Councillors pressed on and some of them paid for the decision with their seats.

Before water meters in 1996, the city’s peak water usage was 50,000m3 per day. Twenty years on and 50,000 more residents later, the usage is only now reaching these levels again. Water meters postponed the need to build a new water treatment plant during 10 years. This and ongoing less demand is forecast to save the city up to $83m by 2032 excluding savings on additional reservoirs and upgrades to pipes. On second thoughts, I’m grateful I’m not paying for one of my colleagues to fill up their 60,000 litre pool after all!