Water token price dispute

By Alana Christensen

For Caniambo farmer Sarah Kealey, the 20km round trip to the Goulburn Main Channel is a familiar one.

With summer approaching, the dams on her Martins Rd property have run dry, forcing her to use a standpipe at the Kialla East channel to pump and cart water for her stock.

Established in 2002-03 by the then-Labor government, the Greater Shepparton City Council-run standpipe allowed stock and domestic users to access 2000litres for the price of a $1.20 token.

But Ms Kealey and Jenny Pummeroy, who lives nearby and also uses the pipe, say two recent price hikes have left them paying $10.20 a token for their 2000litres.

‘‘What we’re paying for water and what a meg of water costs... we’re paying way more,’’ Ms Kealey said.

‘‘That’s our lifeline.’’

According to water trading company Waterpool Co-op, market cost for a megalitre of water in the Goulburn pool is currently $400.

Under the standpipe scheme, the same volume of water is costing Caniambo and surrounding farmers about $5100 through the purchase of tokens.

‘‘We are so in the dark ages out here it’s not even funny. We’re doing two runs each day, it’s pretty vital... It’s only getting hotter and people are going to be relying on it more, but you get some hot days and it goes whack (and a lot of the water evaporates),’’ Ms Kealey said.

After repeated attempts to get the issue resolved, Ms Pummeroy said she had been unable to resolve the issue, and labelled the price rise ‘‘ridiculous’’.

‘‘(My husband) John is carting 6000 litres at a time, we’ve only got to buy about 40 tokens and we’ve paid for a meg of water,’’ she said.

The council said the price rise of the tokens was the result of a review last year into the cost of operating the standpipe.

At the time of the review the council estimated the maintenance and operating costs of the standpipe to be $7000 but said it had recovered only $139 through the purchase of tokens at a cost of $1.30 each.

Ms Pummeroy has questioned this estimation. She said her farm alone had previously spent up to $800 on tokens in a dry summer.

‘‘One hundred per cent of the token costs goes toward maintenance and operating costs which is still not sufficient to cover the cost of providing this service,’’ acting infrastructure director Maree Walker said.

‘‘There is currently no meter on the standpipes; due to this, water usage is roughly calculated through the sale of tokens.

‘‘Council are in the process of undertaking a review which will seek to identify the most appropriate future management arrangements for standpipes located in Greater Shepparton.’’