Water meters save cash

RAIN GAUGE: Wayne Walker, left, and John Watson with a water tank meter. Watercare Services is now allowing any suitably qualified plumber to install them.
RAIN GAUGE: Wayne Walker, left, and John Watson with a water tank meter. Watercare Services is now allowing any suitably qualified plumber to install them.

It's a wonder more tank water users haven't opted for meters when those who have are saving almost half the normal annual cost.

People with rain tank meters for volumetric wastewater charging have been paying much less than the $582 annual fixed charge for an unmetered tank, which increased to $596 a year on Tuesday.

Annual charges for those on meters range from $190 to $553, with the average annual charge $296.

It's a situation Watercare Services seems to be scratching its collective head about too as it has only 302 customers out of a potential 8000 who chose to install tank meters during the past year.

The deal has just become sweeter.

After Bill Boyle of Stanmore Bay complained to the Commerce Commission about Watercare selecting only three companies to install the meters, the water supply and wastewater services company has now agreed to allow any suitably qualified plumber to install their approved water meter.

Boyle is among those who believe this can mean further savings. And he says the move illustrates a point that large businesses can be challenged and made to modify their behaviour.

Watercare says it worked with suppliers to offer the standard Kent water meter and strainer at a substantially discounted price of $115, compared with the normal retail price of $266.

It found from a pilot study that the average installation price, which included the meter and filter, was $500 - ranging from $391 to $632 depending on tank and pipe work location and condition.

Watercare says it sought expressions of interest from invited plumbing companies with a proven record for domestic water systems, but only four responded.

The main beneficiaries of rain tank meters are likely to be small to medium households of one to three people, Watercare says.

The decision to allow any qualified plumber to install the meters is welcomed by Hibiscus Coast and Albany ward councillors Wayne Walker and John Watson who helped drive the request for tank metering.

"This is great news. It means people can now get a really competitive deal to have a water meter installed," Walker says.

"In fact it presents an opportunity for tank users right across the region to potentially save money on their wastewater bill."

The announcement is a further success in a long running campaign by the two Auckland councillors and local board member Greg Sayers in conjunction with the Whangaparaoa Residents and Ratepayers Association. When the issue first surfaced in 2012, possibly the biggest public meeting in the past decade was held at the Whangaparaoa Hall with angry residents complaining they were being overcharged with the $582 annual uniform wastewater charge.

"From this meeting and subsequent monitoring it was clear that one and two person households who were careful with their water use were being charged way more than they should have been," Watson says.

"In many cases more than double the amount."

The campaign was initially successful in persuading Watercare to trial meters but installation costs were considered high by many.

Walker urges plumbers to provide a good deal, encouraging more people to have the meters installed.

"We will be in touch with the suppliers and plumbers to have an economical low-cost option for tankwater households."

He believes there are 3000 households on the Hibiscus Coast on tank supply and a further 1578 across the wider Rodney district.

Rodney Times