Access to water is a basic human right. All Victorians are entitled to a supply of water necessary for an adequate standard of living. Fundamental to this is that water services remain affordable for everyone, including low income and vulnerable consumers.
Overall, we broadly support the Commission’s Draft Decision. In particular, we note that it sets prices at a level that would enable Melbourne Water to deliver key outcomes, including ensuring high quality drinking water and safe sewerage disposal and treatment, and contributing to Melbourne remaining liveable as it deals with the impact of climate change.
The Commission reports that, in early 2021, more water customers are applying for utility relief grants and more customers are being supported through hardship programs. While, on average, water prices have come down slightly across metropolitan Melbourne in recent years, there remain some in the community that have difficulty making payments on their water bills.
The human impact of water prices should not be ignored, or under-stated. A report by VCOSS and RMIT University released August 2017 interviewed a single mum, Odette, who is forced to bathe her children on alternate days because “it’s just so expensive”. There are also fixed-income consumers that shower outside of the home or go to great lengths to carefully manage their water consumption and budgets yet still struggle to afford their water bills when they arrive.
These are customers that we urge the ESC to keep in mind when assessing the pricing submissions put forward by Victorian water companies.
Read our submission (PDF).210504 MW DD submission (1)