Irrigators that use recycled water provided by Coffs Harbour City Council may be asked to pay for the service in the future.
Council is asking for public feedback from today (16 October 2020) on proposals to introduce a Recycled Water Access and Licensing Charge and Recycled Water Consumption Charges from 1 January 2021.
“Recycled water is a valuable asset. The recent drought conditions underlined just how important a reliable and secure water source was for local agricultural producers,” said Mick Raby, Council’s Director Sustainable Infrastructure. “It’s been available as a resource since our water reclamation plants came on stream. But there are costs in maintaining, renewing and overseeing the supply pipelines and applying a small charge would help offset some of those costs.
“Charging for recycled water would also help underline its importance as an asset and help highlight the need for users to look after the supply infrastructure on their properties to cut losses caused by leaks.”
Demand for recycled water has steadily increased since Council began the supply in the late 1990s and now totals 59 customers including 34 agricultural, 15 non-agricultural and 10 Council facilities.
Recent Council-financed studies by Southern Cross University scientists into water quality in local waterways has identified a possible link between nitrate levels and large quantities of recycled water entering those waterways.
“Having a higher degree of care in the use of recycled water by users will also have a beneficial impact on our environment,” added Mr Raby. “Our recycled water has been treated to a very high standard as any excess is pumped into the ocean when we have periods of high rainfall. But where it has been allowed to flow into natural waterways from properties in excessively high quantities, the cumulative effect does appear to have had an effect on the mineral balance of those creeks.
“So charging for its use would be a good reminder for users to make sure that they look after their pipelines – and will also help us to run a more intense audit program of our users to ensure compliance in the future.”
The proposed Recycled Water Access and Licensing Charge and Recycled Water Consumption Charges plan will be on exhibition for 28 days from Friday, 16 October, until Friday, 13 November.
Submissions can be made, and more information found, on Council’s Have Your Say website.