Paying ‘more’ for Water in Auckland

I see Rodney Hide with usual honesty and frankness, has said that water rates will go up for some people under the new ‘super city’.

The anti Watercare group and other who think water should be ‘free’ will be performing their usual tantrums.

Water, as in the stuff that falls out of the sky, is free of charge.

We have a water tank, we collect water from the roof, store it in a tank and use it. If we run out because there’s no rain, we have to buy it. No problem with that because someone has to truck it out to us. There’s also a cost to us for the infrastructure we own in tanks, pipes, pumps, and I guess, even the roof, plus maintenance involved. The water isn’t treated, we don’t bother and have never been sick (touch wood). I’ve never done an analysis on it, but I’d guess over the long term it works out cheaper than a reticulated system. Of course, if there’s a power cut, the pump won’t work so no water, also if a rat fell in the tank, then there’s a lot more fuss and cost involved.

no service is free!

no service is free!

It’s also worth noting that we are very very careful with our water usage, no bath only showers etc etc, this way we have only ever had one ‘externally’ provided tank fill in five years. I guess we treat the water supply with a lot of respect, it really is a precious commodity in February when it hasn’t rained properly for weeks!

As you can see there are costs involved in collecting water and using it. No different in Auckland city on a reticulated service. With this service you get treated drinking water, as much as you like, 24/7, you can water the garden with it, have 50 baths a day if you like, it will be there 99.99% of the time, it’s safe, clean and convenient – it’s on tap!

Hell, out of most service utilities I’d bet in Auckland it’s the most reliable, more so than electricity and much more so than telecommunications – both of which could be regarded as equally important.

So, that people get upset about paying for what is an excellent, world class service, which is taken for granted, puzzles me. It’s not cheap to achieve, and like anything there is a cost that has to be recovered somewhere, which brings me to the next point.

In an increasing number of countries, water is now a scarce commodity. It’s so scarce that they buy it in by the super tanker load from other countries, or ration it’s use. This of course means that the cost, or if you like, price, of water is increasing as a commodity internationally. It’s not just that the infrastructure to collect, treat and get the water to your tap is expensive, it’s just that there is only so much water to go around and the demand in some countries, outstrips the supply. It’s predicted that wars could be fought over water in the future, and in fact it could be argued that in the Middle East and Africa, they already are.

So next time you have a gripe about your water bill, consider that the service in Auckland is among the best in the world, and it’s cheap for something you only think about when you get the bill. If you don’t want to pay for it, use less or get a water tank to supplement supply – but you may find the costs outweigh the benefits which again makes your service look pretty cost effective.

Remember, you’re not paying for the water, you’re paying for the service of collecting it and getting it to your tap, the water itself is still ‘free’.

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