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Water costs drain livestock industry

Water costs drain livestock industry


CATHERINE MILLER



02 Oct, 2014 03:30 AM

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HIGH COST: Rural consumers believe the present pricing system bears no relationship to the real cost of supplying water.

HIGH COST: Rural consumers believe the present pricing system bears no relationship to the real cost of supplying water.




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WATER has become liquid gold for those livestock producers reliant on SA Water supplies.

Prices have quadrupled in the past six years, leaving many producers in the Mid North, Eyre Peninsula and Upper South East without access to good quality underground water or dams - and dependent on mains - forced to make decisions on their future in the industry.

An inquiry into drinking water and sewerage retail pricing was referred to the Essential Services Commission of SA by the Treasurer in September, 2012.

The draft report was released in July. There are hopes that reductions may be possible with the report suggesting introduction of a cost-reflective usage charge.

Rural consumers believe the present pricing system bears no relationship to the real cost of supplying water.

ESCOSA has suggested the charge may be as low as 62 cents a kilolitre - significantly better than existing prices up to $3.23/kL.

It has received 34 public submissions from across the state to the draft report, including from Primary Producers SA, Livestock SA, the Coorong District Council, Lower Eyre Peninsula Council and a number of landholders. All have all urged state government to re-think water prices.

Livestock SA president Richard Halliday says the organisation has identified reducing the cost of livestock water as one of its top 10 priorities.

It would like to see a differentiation between water used from SA Water for livestock consumption and that for domestic usage, and a cheaper rate for livestock in recognition of the sector's production value and contribution to the state's economy.

"If the price of water is not reduced to a more realistic level, not only will this lead to reduced livestock numbers, but it will start to mean that less efficient management procedures will occur," Mr Halliday said.

"In times of drought, producers started keeping animals in drought lots as part of effective natural resource management on their properties, but as water prices increase this will not be a feasible measure."