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Statement regarding Sunny Creek main decommissioning

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Statement regarding Sunny Creek main decommissioning

The process regarding decommissioning of the Sunny Creek water main has received some press coverage over recent days which may lead to some confusion about Gippsland Water’s position and how it is working with the 11 landholders affected.

The following details Gippsland Water’s position and its determination to work with landholders to find a solution that works for all parties.

Q: What is a Water By Agreement (WBA)?

A: Water by Agreement is an individual agreement between a water corporation and a landowner that allows water to be provided outside of a declared serviced district. Given the nature of these agreements, they do not provide a permanent right to access water, and in some instances, may end where a water supply can no longer be made available.

Under a Gippsland Water WBA, agreements may be terminated with six months’ notice. Gippsland Water has provided nine months’ notice to the Sunny Creek landholders.

What’s happening now is Gippsland Water is consulting with those landholders to find the best outcomes.

Q: What’s happened in this area to say Gippsland Water is not able to supply water?

A: Having been installed in the 1950s the water main has reached the end of its life. Since 2007, there have been eight major failures along the main and 20 water quality complaints (either low pressure or no water at all).

The most recent example was the mains break in November 2015 which resulted in landowners being without mains water for two and a half days and Gippsland Water needing to supply land owners with bottled water. Supply has only been able to be restored via a temporary connection.

Despite continued and extensive maintenance unfortunately the main has now reached a point where it can no longer be satisfactorily repaired or maintained, and we cannot justify the replacement costs of around $1M, which would have to be funded by our other customers through their tariffs.

The decision to decommission the Sunny Creek main is not a decision that Gippsland Water has taken lightly. We appreciate that customers will need to make alternate arrangements for their water supplies, and we are committed to working with them to assist in their transition.

Q: What charges have these customers been paying while receiving Gippsland Water water?

A: The Water by Agreement customers along the Sunny Creek Main have been paying the standard water supply charge of $169 per annum, and additional charges of $1.96 per kilolitre of water.

Gippsland Water has taken the decision to cease billing the affected landowners from December 2015.

Q: How old is the main these customers have been receiving water from?

A: The main was constructed in 1956. It is 1.92 klms long and made of reinforced concrete.

Q: Have new customers been added to the Sunny Creek main over the last 20 years?

The Sunny Creek residents have been on a WBA since 1992. Only one of the properties has changed hands in that time and no new properties have been added to the system in that time.

Q: What is Gippsland Water doing to communicate with customers?

A: We have written to the Water by Agreement landholders and followed up with phone calls. We have also set a longer period of notice for the landholders to make plans (nine months rather than six) and are committed to working with landholders up to and beyond September to help them find an alternate solution.

Again we would emphasise that we do not take decisions like this lightly and we are committed to working with landowners as they transition to alternate water sources.

The current consultation phase is ongoing so that we can find solutions that serve all parties.

Q: How confident is Gippsland Water that its estimate to replace the pipe ($1M) is accurate?

A: Based on previous projects, within our service area, built in the past several years of similar scale we are confident that the cost estimate is accurate.

When supplying drinking water Gippsland Water must meet the Safe Drinking Water Act 2003 and Water Industry Constructions Standards.

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Gippsland Water supplies fresh clean drinking water to more than 70,000 customers, and wastewater services to more than 63,000 customers across an area of more than 5,000 square kilometres. It maintains a $1 billion infrastructure network, which includes more than 2,000 kilometres of water mains, 15 water treatment plants, over 1,700 kilometres of sewer mains and 14 wastewater treatment plants.

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