Rotorua residents could begin paying for the water they use if the council considers a proposal put forward by a local associate professor.
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology associate professor resource management Craig Morley has suggested all residents be switched to metered water, rather than increasing the city's rates across the board.
The proposal was put forward at last week's Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee meeting, but was postponed when Dr Morley was unable to attend.
In his submission, Dr Morley said he thought water, a valuable resource, was often wasted because people believed it was free.
Water costs are currently included within the rates system, but Dr Morley argued that if people knew the actual cost, "this may bring about a change in behaviour and also increase some revenue for the council".
"By charging for metered water, this would bring in some additional funding for the waste water treatment plant work and services now required by the city.
"It seems foolish to allow people to use as much water as they like and then have a waste water system that struggles to cope with the volume.
"By metering all water, this may lower the volume requiring treatment and get people to adopt water conservation measures."
Rotorua Lakes Council's strategic development manager, sustainability and social development, Rosemary Viskovic, said Dr Morley's submission would be deliberated on by the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee at its next meeting on June 8.
According to the Rotorua Lakes Council website, all water connections within the rural supplies are metered, as are all extraordinary water connections in the urban area.
An extraordinary water connection is one that serves a commercial or industrial property, serves more than two domestic dwellings or where there is usage that falls outside the definition of ordinary use - such as geothermal water heat exchanging or hot pool cooling.
Mamaku, Rotoiti, Rotoma, Reporoa, Hamurana, and Okareka water supplies have a minimum quarterly charge to ensure sufficient revenue to cover the costs of supplying the water.
Kaharoa rural supply does not have a set minimum charge. Each connection receives a supply charge for fixed costs and a consumption charge for water consumed.
Hamurana, Kaharoa and Awahou Ratepayer and Residents Association chairman Jerry Douglas said they had always had metered water and didn't believe it should be free.
"We are being penalised while some urban folk are getting away with using as much as they want. I would have no qualms about turning around to the council and telling them to go for it.
"We are certainly more conscious of how much water we use, particularly in summer when our water bill is higher."
Mr Douglas said it was a particularly high water bill that alerted him to a leak.
"It was going undetected until we got the bill. Those who are not having to pay for their water are not necessarily going to notice when they do have leaks."
Mamaku Residents and Ratepayers Group chairwoman Wendy Roe said she agreed with the concept.
"I agree that if you have to pay for something you keep track of what you're using - it's like electricity.
"Having said that, if it were to be adopted, the council would need to be fair about the cost. There are elderly in Mamaku who are paying the quarterly charge but are not using that much water."
Dr Morley also expressed his desire to see more drinking fountains around the city and a ban on both the sale of water in non-recyclable plastic bottles and plastic rubbish bags.
"Our oceans will soon have more items of plastic in them than fish. A complete ban should be implemented ... I appreciate this seems harsh but if given alternatives people will always opt for the easiest, most convenient option and we must change this behaviour."
Conserving water tips
- Water your garden in the in the early morning or late evening to minimise evaporation.
- Fix leaky taps, hoses and water pipes as these can waste a lot of precious water.
- Install a rainwater collection system and use the water for your garden or dairy shed.