Access to water is a basic human right recognised by the United Nations and the Australian Government as fundamental to health, wellbeing, and an adequate standard of living. Critical to upholding this human rights obligation is the affordability of water services, particularly for those customers experiencing financial hardship and vulnerability.
Water prices are a significant interest for Consumer Action and consumer advocates at large, with price increases disproportionately affecting the economic and general wellbeing of people in the community on low-incomes.
We are pleased to see prices trending downward or remaining steady compared to long-term trends in most submissions, but projected price increases in several regions during the coming regulatory period has raised concern about affordability into the future for customers of these corporations.
Victorians are facing increased financial stress during a period of rising cost of living pressures and the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising water prices during this regulatory period will exacerbate hardship for those experiencing the most difficulty.
The number of water customers on hardship programs is increasing (by 8.99% in metropolitan areas from June 2021 – June 20223), and more and more Victorians are struggling to pay bills for their most fundamental needs.
Housing stress and cost of living increases have forced many community members to make difficult decisions and sacrifices of their own well-being, trading off other essential goods and services to be able to keep a roof over their heads. This is deeply worrying, and we urge the Essential Services Commission to keep these customers, and easing their financial burden, in mind during its assessment of the pricing submissions put forward by Victorian water businesses.
Read the full submission (PDF).221130 Initial feedback 2023-28 water price review