Water authority defends fees for bores

SOUTHERN Rural Water has refuted claims by Portland district contractor Mel Bartlett that its fees for drilling bores are out of line and that its methods of calculating groundwater reserves are wrong.

Groundwater and rivers general manager Craig Parker said the water corporation was a not-for-profit government-owned entity and its fees reflected the cost of assessing applications.

Mr Bartlett, of Bolwarra, told The Standard last weekend the $720 works permit was deterring farmers, householders and recreation groups from sinking bores.

He also criticised the corporation’s assessment of groundwater reserves.

Mr Parker said fees had been increased because the cost of applications was being subsidised by regular licence holders.

“We now have fees that accurately reflect the cost of assessing a licence application, which can include hydrogeological reporting, notifications to neighbours, advertising in local newspapers, public meetings, and more,”  he said.

“For the next five years, we are proposing fee rises that are at CPI only.

“We  invited every Southern Rural Water customer to comment on our fees and projects via a recent survey.”

Mr Parker said the corporation assessed an average of 230 applications across the south-west each year for the past three years — usually around 30 for commercial licences and 200 for domestic and stock water.

In response to Mr Barlett’s criticism that South Australia charged only $70 for a permit fee, Mr Parker said it was difficult to compare fees from jurisdictions which may have different policies on full-cost recovery.

He said Southern Rural Water had a vast knowledge of groundwater across the state, including its recent 3D mapping of underground water and the launch  last year of its south-west atlas.

“The atlas was created through consultation with a wide range of stakeholders,” he said.

“On top of that, we also use hydrogeological audits of specific aquifers which look at things like rate of recharge, the amount being taken out by licence holders, the amount flowing out to sea and more.

“Our methods have recently been upheld in VCAT.”

The atlas is available on Southern Rural Water’s website, www.srw.com.au, as well as a new hydrograph service showing levels in observation bores across the region.

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