IRATE property owners want to hose down hefty bills from Wannon Water for fire hydrants on commercial and industrial sites around Warrnambool.
It is estimated there could be hundreds of hydrants around the district that the water authority has discovered have never been billed before.
Property owners have received invoices listing charges of $1600 and upwards per hydrant, backdated a year and a demand that each hydrant be fitted with a meter to detect leaks and prevent unauthorised use.
About 30 owners have signed an impromptu petition and 20 attended a meeting on Wednesday evening where they decided to tackle the Warrnambool-based regional water corporation.
They will send a protest letter to Wannon Water requesting an explanation and will meet again at Raffetys Tavern on September 26 to decide further action and will approach district MPs.
The meeting also called for other s with similar issues to join the protest.
"It's another cost pressure on small business operators in tough times," said meeting organiser Geoff Owen, who has three liable properties.
"There would be hundreds of hydrants around Warrnambool and thousands around the region.
"Our argument is that we had to pay for these hydrants to be fitted as part of planning requirements for the industrial estate.
"Now Wannon Water has discovered them and decided to charge exorbitant fees, yet many hydrants don't have enough pressure for fire fighting."
Another property owner, Jeff Vick, urged other affected owners or tenants to contact him on email@example.com
Wannon Water described it as a fire services charge on commercial and industrial customers where a private hydrant was connected to the reticulated water supply .
"The fire service installation enables large volumes of water to be drawn from the water supply system," the corporation's communications manager Jocelen Griffiths said.
"Wannon Water incurs fixed costs to maintain the capacity to supply water to these fire services when needed by the customer.
"In late 2011 Wannon Water started a program to identify unrecorded fire service installations in Warrnambool as it became apparent that some had not been billed previously."