Average Water Bills in Canberra

A senior man sitting by a table calculating the raising cost of energy and tax bills. Inflation and living cost

With the rising cost of living already hurting and many homeowners feeling the pinch of interest rates, it’s not the best of times to be announcing new water prices destined to hit the ACT in 2023.

Be that as it may, there is no stopping the water fee increase so putting some water-saving strategies in place now will see you well prepared for the current prices as well as those still to come.

Table: Current ACT water and sewerage prices compared to previous years and the changes recommended for 2023-2024

Supply charge ($/year)$180$200$205.87
Tier 1* (first 50 kL per quarter)$2.48$2.28$2.35
Tier 2* (in excessof 50 kL per quarter)$4.99$4.58$4.71
Supply charge ($/year)$506.30$502.18$534.40
Charge for flushing fixture in excess of 2 ($/fixture/annum)$495.16$491.13522.64

You can see from the table that prices actually went down from 2021 to 2022. That is because the proposed price increases were put on hold following the COVID-19 crisis.

*We will cover how the different tier charges work on your bill within this article.

Who Sets Canberra’s water price

Canberra water is supplied by Icon Water, which is fully owned by the ACT Government. Icon Water is the sole provider of water to the Canberra region because the government is the only one with access to ACT’s water resources such as dams, reservoirs, pipes and water treatment plants. Because of this monopoly, it’s essential that an independent regulator be the one to set the prices and review service operations. In the ACT the independent regulator is the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC).

The ICRC are responsible for assessing costs and delivery needs and setting prices for ACT town water and sewage removal. 

The newest ICRC review to set prices for 2023-2024 has just been released with a finding that the cost of annual water and sewage supply charges needs to increase in the ACT to cover the uncertain operating environment. 

How Water Prices Are Determined

The quality of drinking water is important for consumer health and sewage quality needs to be high as waste is discharged into the Murrumbidgee River for use by towns downstream.

Prices for water and water use charges are determined by immediate operating costs including:

  • Staff wages
  • Treatment chemicals
  • Energy to run pumps
  • Maintenance
  • Tax liabilities

Also affecting water prices are long-term factors including:

Ageing Infrastructure – Most of Icon Water’s dams and reservoirs were built in the 1960s and 70s. As well as repairs to keep them operating, water prices need to cover upgrades to the water engineering faculties at Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Weston Creek and Woden Valley.

Population Growth – Over the next 20 years, (between now (2022 and 2042), ACT’s population is expected to increase by 33%. Upgrades will be needed to handle the future volume and maintain a safe level for both drinking water and waste removal.

Climate Change – Climate change affects rainfall as well as runoff patterns, changing ACT’s water availability and predictability. This is compounded by the more frequent threat of bushfires and heat waves that greatly affect water consumption and storage levels. 

Government Policy – Water safety, correct treatment and quality is essential. Icon Water needs to meet numerous standards under both state and commonwealth levels to meet quality targets.

Excess Water Price

In order to encourage water saving there are Tier 2 charges for any water used in excess of 0.548 kL on average per day. That gives a Canberra household access to cheaper water up to almost 550 litres of water per day, with usage rates increased after this. The Tier 2 tariff is per household, not per occupant so larger families will need to pay the excess water price while the Tier 1 cap should be adequate to cover a two-person household easily enough. 

Current water price in Canberra

As of 1 July 2022 – 30 June 2023 the water price in the ACT is as follows:

Water Supply charge$200 for a full year
Water usage Tier$2.28 per kL
Water Usage Tier 2$4.58 per kL
Supply charge $502.18 for a full year a year
Extra flushing fixture$491.13 per unit per year in excess of two units

There are two tiers shown for water use prices. Tier 1 is the price for the first 50kL of water per quarter per household – which works out to around 550 litres of water per day for the payment period.  Tier 2 is the price for all water metered in excess of 50 kL per quarter

Average Water Bills in Canberra

Average water bills in Canberra are hard to determine as there are a range of different factors that influence water demands such as the number of occupants (adults and children), the number of bathrooms, garden size, and home and appliance energy efficiency ratings.

These factors can change not just household to household but also season to season and even week to week.

To determine how the new rates will affect the average user’s water bills we’ve listed some typical examples based on Census 2021. Data shows that the majority of the Canberra population are two people per household (Census average 2.3 people per household).

The majority of families were couples without kids (46.5%) while couples with children averaged 1.7 kids per family. Three bedroom homes are the most common, followed by 4+ bedroom homes and 2 bedroom homes.

The average water use is 100kL per annum per person. For an average two person home with no more than two toilets, a homeowner’s quarterly water bill will look like this for 2022:

Two person home 

Annual Water Supply + Sewage = $702.18

Annual Water Use Tier 1: 200kL x $2.28 = $456.00

Annual Total = $1,158.18

This will be billed quarterly for around $289.55 per bill. 

For a home with two adults and two kids, each using 100kL a year the bill will look very different as the excess water tariff will be included.

Four person home

Annual Water Supply + Sewage = $702.18

Annual Water Use Tier 1 200kL x $2.28 = $456.00

Annual Water Use Tier 2 200kL x $4.58 = $916.00

Annual Total= $2,074.18

This would be billed quarterly for around $518.55 per bill.

In 2023 – 2024 the new water and sewage supply rates the average homeowner will see an increase of around $58.00 to their total yearly water costs.

Understanding your water bill

Water bills typically come every three months. Your bill will show your billing period with the dates From and To as well as how many days this billing cycle covers. Your bill will show how much of your water use is charged at Tier 1 prices, how much is Tier 2 and your total costs to pay.

To determine your water usage your bill will display how many kL of water was read at the previous reading and how much is on the current reading. The difference between these numbers is the amount of water you used for this period. For example 

Previous readCurrent read

The total for this billing period is 5667 – 5545 = current usage 122kL. 

In this case the first 50kL to be billed in Tier 1 and the remaining 72kL charged at Tier 2. 

Water usage is measured in kL. This stands for kiloliters which is 1,000 litres of water. A household using 120kL has consumed 120,000 Litres of water in the three month cycle.

How to save money on your water bill

There are plenty of ways you can save money on your water bill. As well as being conscious of how much water you consume to consciously decrease water usage, there are also ways you can save water without noticing a cut back:

  • Buy water-efficient appliances for your dishwasher and washing machine
  • Use the Eco cycle on your appliances
  • Wait to run your appliances when they are full
  • Use a low-flow showerhead
  • Fix leaks and dripping taps
  • Collect rainwater for washing the car and watering the garden

Just turning off the tap while you brush your teeth can save our precious water resources and help save money. A little bit of water saving every day will make a big impact on your overall bill, especially if your household typically exceeds the Tier 1 capacity.

If you need help assessing tap leaks or changing to water-saving appliances call a Qualified Plumber for advice, installation and service.