Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Fight over garden water fee

Watercare quotes $1498 for a second meter - and that doesn't include the pipework.

Helen Moore dislikes being charged a wastewater levy for water she sprays on her garden. Photo / Dean Purcell
Helen Moore dislikes being charged a wastewater levy for water she sprays on her garden. Photo / Dean Purcell

A West Auckland home gardener's hope of cutting her water bills by fitting a $150 irrigation meter has been dashed after Watercare Services quoted her $1500 for installation.

Helen Moore said she sought cheaper ways to grow food during the dry summer because of the region's user-pays water pricing system.

The January water bill for herself and her husband was $139.40, including $18.18 GST.

The charge for fresh water coming to the property was $52.38 and the fixed charge was $17.18.

However, it was the additional $69.84 charged for wastewater that made the Moores realise the difference that watering their 47sq m garden had made.

"It's not the water charge I object to," said Mrs Moore. "It's the fact that they charge me for what is not going down the drain.

"Watercare do not distinguish between what is used for the garden and what is used in the house.

"They just say 78.5 per cent of total water into the property is sent down the drain, even if it isn't."

Mrs Moore expected her next bill to be similar, though she would rather keep the garden producing than leave plants to shrivel up through lack of moisture.

"They say, 'Have a garden and save money,' but it doesn't if you pay gigantic amounts to keep it going.

"It's nearly double what it was when wastewater was a fixed charge of $450 a year on the property's rates."

Watercare charges $1.34 per 1000 litres of fresh water, a fixed charge of $190 a year, and a wastewater charge of $2.28 per 1000 litres.

Mrs Moore said she had heard that getting a meter fitted to the hosepipe - as golf courses and large-scale growers do - could save the wastewater component.

All Auckland homes have a meter to measure fresh water drawn from the mains supply but in order to measure what is used on the garden, a meter and piping separate from the house supply are required.

Mrs Moore said Watercare quoted her $1498 for the second meter, which was $1180 plus GST.

"This does not include pipework, which we would have to arrange ourselves. The plumbing supplies companies sell this exact meter for $144.50. The extra piping could be done for about $100.

"But they won't allow us to do it, though I said I'd pay the processing fee of $141 and an inspection approval fee as well. So, I cannot afford it."

Watercare spokesman Daniel Wrigley said the quote included the irrigation meter and a backflow prevention device, their installation and connection to Watercare's network.

The back-flow device was required by law to protect the water network and it must be tested annually, for which there was a fee.

Mr Wrigley did not know how many irrigation meters were installed but said a reasonably large garden was necessary to recover their cost as well as a separate pipe from the house.

- NZ Herald

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