Standpipe fees set to triple for farmers

Zach RelphCountryman
The Water Corporation plans to abolish concessional rates for water sourced from regional fixed high-flow standpipes in WA from July 1.
Camera IconThe Water Corporation plans to abolish concessional rates for water sourced from regional fixed high-flow standpipes in WA from July 1. Credit: Zach Relph

Drought-stricken Great Southern farmers’ water bills are set to more than triple under a contentious Water Corporation pricing restructure for fast-flowing water access.

The State Government-owned utility intends to scrap concessional rates for water sourced from regional fixed high-flow standpipes Statewide from July 1.

Under the move, some Great Southern farmers are set to be slugged $8.35 a kilolitre for using 50mm and 80mm service standpipes — rising from the current $2.53 a kilolitre.

All 20mm or 25mm standpipes will receive concessional rates.

Woodanilling sheep producer and grain grower Russel Thomson, the Shire of Woodanilling president, said Water Corporation’s standpipe move would have a drastic impact on farmers dependant on the system.

“Some farmers are reliant on the fast-flowing standpipes for spray water and domestic-use when rain water tanks run dry,” he said.

The approaching standpipe cost increase comes after the State Government controversially slashed the Farm Water Rebate Scheme last June.

WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington said the touted standpipe hike would have an impact on the Great Southern producers.

“This is the second kick in the guts to farmers in the drought stricken part of the Great Southern following on from last year’s cancelling of the on-farm water infrastructure rebate,” he said.

“It’s not as if we want to water our manicured lawns, this water is used as a basic animal welfare measure to water our livestock when our dams are empty.”

Local government-owned standpipes extend from a Water Corporation water supply to provide water to regional properties without access to reticulated water schemes.

Although usage charges are billed directly to the local government authority, 98 local government councils will decide if, or how much, the impending pricing increase will be passed onto farmers, businesses and landholders not connected.

Nationals WA Member for Roe Peter Rundle, who farms near Katanning, said the Water Corporation was washing its hands clean of its responsibility as the State’s principal water supplier.

“Water Corporation is offloading its duties onto local governments and farmers,” he said.

Water Corporation Great Southern regional manager Adrian Stewart said the pricing change would guarantee consistent usage charges for fast-flowing standpipes.

“Patterns of water use from fixed standpipes have shown some businesses are currently charged at the concessional level by accessing local government standpipes, which is unfair for other businesses that are being charged correctly,” he said.

WA Water Minister Dave Kelly said the changes would align commercial high-flow standpipe users with other commercial water users.

Katanning mixed enterprise sheep-cropping farmer Geoff Stade primary uses the scheme system and does not expect to be drastically affected by the standpipe pricing change.

However, he said it would impede sufficient water access for many farmers in the Great Southern and called for the Farm Water Rebate Scheme to be reintroduced.

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