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City 'deserves better water'

Wednesday, 18th November, 2009

By Gina Wilson Residents should tell today's public forum into water price increases that no rise will be accepted until water quality is improved.

That is the view of a former water board employee, Graham Walkom.

Mr Walkom said today's meeting gave residents the chance to speak out about proposed cost hikes to water and sewage in Broken Hill, Silverton and Menindee.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is in the city to gauge the community's view toward a proposed 52 per cent annual increase in their water bills by Country Water, which it says is necessary to foot a $40 million dollar shortfall in its costs.

The views will be used by IPART to determine new pricing rates, which will come into effect in July next year.

Earlier this month IPART's chief executive Jim Cox stressed the importance of local residents and businesses attending the meeting "given the size of the price increases suggested by Country Energy". Mr Walkom, who worked for five years with the Broken Hill Water Board, the responsible body for water before Country Energy's formation, said people should tell the tribunal the basics - that they have to buy water to drink and they won't pay more until water quality is improved.

"Tell the tribunal that (you) have to pay for water because it's not good to drink," Mr Walkom said.

"People should let the tribunal know it is not acceptable to have any price increase under these conditions."

Mr Walkom also believed a community 'sniff and taste test' and the publishing of more material relating to water quality should be done before any increase is considered.

"It should be a condition that before any price rise we should have a community customer consultation group re-established and a more comprehensive publishing of water testing," he said.

"And (Country Water) should be required to prove to us that the water is up to scratch.

"It's payment for results."

Country Energy will explain its proposals for consideration by IPART as will the Broken Hill City Council and the Silverton Village Committee.

The meeting begins at 9am at The Astra in Argent Street.

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