Australians keep up water use habits despite soaring temperatures

Posted 23 March 2017

Kitchen sinkResidential water use remained steady last year, despite above-average temperatures across much of Australia, a Bureau of Meteorology report shows. 

The National performance report 2015–16: urban water utilities shows only a 1% increase in residential water use (to 182kL per property), which is in line with the 2012-13 and 2014-15 reporting years. 

“During this time maximum temperatures across much of Australia were above average,” the report stated. 

“There has been a moderate increase in usage by the three larger utility size groups, but that has been offset by a significant decrease in the 10,000- to 20,000-size group of utilities.”

The Bureau's Assistant Director Water Information Services Dr Robert Argent said the report highlighted an interesting diversification of supply sources. 

"While surface water remains the dominant source of water in Australia, the trend to recycled water supplied by medium to large utilities, including many large regional utilities and councils continues,” Argent said.

“There was a 7% increase in 2015–16 following 13% growth the year before.

“This increase reflects the reduced availability of surface water and the need to diversify supply sources in the face of growing demand.”

The report is the eleventh in the series that compares the performance of 86 urban water utilities providing services to more than 20 million people across Australia.

Another encouraging trend was the slowdown in rising residential water and sewerage bills, with average increases steadying at 4% over the past two reporting years.

However, for many smaller utilities bills rose considerably more.

“The 10,000- to 20,000- and 20,000- to 50,000-size groups reported a 7% and 5% increase in the median typical bill, respectively,” the report stated.

“There is an increasing trend in the median typical residential bill over this period, with increases above CPI.”

Utilities' capital expenditure on water supply and sewerage services was found to have remained steady over the past three years, while long-term combined operating costs were shown to have increased.

“The national median combined operating costs, on a dollar-per-property basis, has shown a steady increase over time, even though the year-to-year values fluctuate,” the report stated. 

“In 2015-16 it was $920 per property, up from $896 in 2014-15.”

Overall, end users remained relatively satisfied, with just five complaints for water and sewerage services per 1000 properties (up from four complaints per 1000 properties in 2014-15).