Water Services

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​​​Council has almost completed the installation of water meters across the whole District.

This page provides an in-depth explanation of why meters are a great tool to calculate the fairest way to charge for water and to enable Council to manage its water network more efficiently.​

How we get water to your taps

Council supplies metered drinking water to 15,700 properties (about 34,000 people) across the Western Bay District through a complex network of reticulation.

This network supplies three zones – Eastern, Central and Western – from which water is pumped from underground aquifers to individual properties.

Until the late 1990s Council’s water supply came from surface-fed sources (rivers and streams). These supplies sometimes failed to reach the national drinking water quality standards due to the water being affected by rainfall, rising waters, silts and turbidity. This resulted in Council being unable to supply clean potable water all the time. The overland nature of our infrastructure also put it at risk of damage in storms and floods.

We decided to convert from surface-fed to secure underground aquifers pumped by bores. This enabled us to achieve a more consistent quality of water and reliability of supply. It also allowed Council to increase its capacity to meet future demand and to improve reliability of supply in drought conditions.

We are also working with Tauranga City Council on the Waiari Water Supply Scheme which will service the Papamoa coastal strip/Te Tumu growth areas and provide a backup for Te Puke’s water supply
This scheme employs the best technology to manage surface-fed supplies and consistently produce A grade water.​

Why we have District-wide metering

Converting to underground supplies allowed Council to focus on the reliability of future supply and conservation of water through district-wide metering.

Since 2010 we have undertaken a staged programme of water metering for all customers connected to Council's water supply. This programme will be completed in June 2018.  The overall cost of metering and upgrading back flow prevention is approximately $4.96 million.​

Newly metered customers are charged for water at the same rate as existing metered properties. Charging for the water use of each property will begin in the year following the installation of the meter.

From our customers' perspective it is very important that they can judge or know exactly how much water they are using. This knowledge will enable them to consider ways in which they can conserve water.​

Council is retaining the present charging regime (2017/18) until we get a year’s worth of water meter data from across the whole District. This will give us the robust information with which to make future decisions. See Frequently Asked Questions for how this may affect you.

Benefits of metering

Meters are the only tool by which Council can measure how much water is being used; identify unaccountable water loss; provide information to users on how much water they are using; indicate to Council how it can plan for water use in the future.
  • Provides information: Enables Council to accurately gauge whether its infrastructure is sufficient to provide the amount of water required for the District – this will ensure capital works are only undertaken when strictly necessary.
  • Fairer water use charges: Enables Council to adopt a fair pricing policy for users across the three water supply zones (those who use more will pay more). We explain this below – see Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Lowers household use: Encourages behavioural change in water use and encourages residents to use water saving initiatives in their home, leaving more natural water available in the environment for other uses.
  • Cost savings: Metering can lead to a reduction in water use which in turn leads to savings in Council’s capital investment (because infrastructural demands for new/upgraded plant are lessened/deferred). 
  • Equity of supply: Enables better management of the supply network due to Council and customers being able to measure where water is going. It also enables a fairer balance between high and low users.
  • Conservation: Council considers water conservation an important part of ensuring the economic and environmental wellbeing of the community. The national average household water usage is approximately 600 litres per day. The average per person is 220 litres per day. Our research in the Western Bay (2010 and 2012) indicated an average household use of closer to 660-720 litres per day. About 70 percent of water supplied to homes ends up as wastewater.​

Frequently asked questions

How are my water rates struck?

Water rate charges are based on forecast expenditure in the period needed to maintain and supply water to the District. These costs are split between fixed costs and variable costs.

Fixed costs are those incurred by Council before users turn on the tap. They include staff-related costs (staff time spent on scheduled maintenance and monitoring), interest, depreciation on water assets and costs associated with making the water system available as a service to the public. Council recovers fixed costs via a connection charge which is the same for all users district-wide ($382.10 +GST in 2018). 

Variable costs include costs such as maintenance to the water system and treatment processes. Variable costs increase as water consumption increases. Water is charged per cubic meter (1000 litres). Council recovers variable costs via a consumption (metered) charge ($1.13 +GST per cubic meter of water). So the more water you use, the more you pay. Matching fixed costs to the connection charge and matching variable costs to the consumption charge enables Council to recover the costs of delivering the service.​

​​What’s the difference between the water rate and the metered rate?

The water rate is the fixed charge component and the consumption charge is based on the amount of water used – as recorded on the meter at each property.​

Where do I find my water charge?

The fixed connection charge appears on the ratepayer’s rate assessment statement. This is a fixed charge that is the same for everyone across the District because Council believes the cost to deliver water to a tap should be the same no matter where people live. The variable consumption charge (water usage) is sent out separately. Both invoices are distributed twice a year. The consumption charge is based on meter readings carried out by Council staff twice yearly and varies according to the amount of water each property uses.​

Why do I get separate water bills?

Your rates invoice, which you receive twice a year, contains information of your fixed water charge, as that is a component of your total rates. Your water usage invoice is separate to your rates’ invoice and comes twice a year after each six-monthly reading of your water meter by Council staff.​

Why do people on meters have a reduced annual water rate?

Before meters were installed all ratepayers were charged an unmetered rate of $469.50 plus GST (2018). This charge allowed water users to consume as much water as they wanted at a fixed annual rate. This approach did not promote water conservation nor did it highlight unaccountable water loss due to leakage within the reticulation system. Metering makes the charging regime fairer and more equitable across the district. Once metered, those households on water meters have a charge split into two parts – the fixed connection charge ($382.10 +GST in 2018) and the variable consumption charge ($1.13 +GST per cubic meter in 2018). The District will be predominantly on water meters by June 2018. 

How do Western Bay’s water charges compare with other councils?

Our charges are higher than some councils for two main reasons: 
  1. ​The size and the topography of our District. If we were to compare our area to Tauranga City Council, we are significantly more rural and the contours of the land are more rugged. This means we have to install and maintain more treatment plants and pipelines. The operation of this extensive water network together with the conversion from surface-fed to underground supplies are some of the key reasons for the higher water charges compared to some other local authorities.
  2. Investment for future capacity: In the past 15 years, Western Bay has invested significantly in water infrastructure; universal metering and the initial conversion from surface-fed to underground water supply. This investment has allowed for additional capacity in the water system to accommodate growth in the district. 

Does everyone in the District get charged for water? 

Everyone whose household is connected to Council’s reticulation is charged a fixed charge for water and everyone who is connected to a meter is charged a fixed charge and a consumption charge for water used. If Council’s reticulation system runs past a property but that property is not connected to our system, the householder will be paying only an availability charge (fixed charge). Availability means that the property has the ability to connect to Council’s system. People living in rural areas outside of Council’s reticulated supply have their own on-site water supply, therefore receive no water charges from Council.​

Have our annual water charges increased over the past year and if so why?

Water charges have increased year-on year (2017 vs 2018). The fixed connection charge has increased from $371.00 + GST to $382.10 +GST. The variable consumption charge has increased from $1.10 +GST per cubic meter (1000 litres) to $1.13 +GST per cubic meter. These increases reflect the additional costs incurred by Council to supply and maintain water supply across the District. No allowance has been made to make a surplus for supplying water as Council operates on a cost recovery basis for provision of the service. Council annually reviews its water charges as part of the Annual Plan process.

How much can I expect to pay in water for the 2017/18 year – taking into account both fixed and variable (usage) charges?

The table below gives an average calculation based on Council’s 2017/18 water charges. All figures are GST inclusive.

Household type​Fixed supply charge​Charge per cubic metre​Annual usage in m3​Usage (variable) charges​Total
​Single person​$439.42​$1.30 per cubic meter​75m3​$97.50​$536.92
​Two person​$439.42​$1.30 per per cubic meter​​160m3​​$208.00​$647.42​
​Family w 2.4 kids​$439.42​$1.30 per cubic meter​250m3​$325.00​$764.42
​Large family​$439.42​$1.30 per cubic meter​310m3​$403.00​$842.42​

How to read your water meter

Most water meters measure your water usage in cubic metres (there are 1000 litres in a cubic metre). A few older meters use imperial measurement.


Your meter shows two sets of numbers, the first set of four numbers is in black on white and shows the number of cubic metres used. These are the only numbers you need to record for keeping your monthly note of water use. The second set of three numbers is in red, white or black depending on the type of meter you have and shows the litres. These figures are helpful for picking up changes in water use over a short time, such as the overnight leakage test we recommend.​

Water Conservation Tips

  • Take shorter showers. A five-minute shower uses about a third as much water as a bath
  • When doing your laundry make sure you adjust the water level to suit the wash load, or if you have an older washing machine wait until you have a full load before starting the wash
  • Stop dripping taps by replacing tired washers. A dripping tap can waste up to four litres of water per day
  • Regularly check your property for water leaks. If you have a water meter, turn all taps off and check that your meter has stopped turning. The sooner you pick up a leak in your system, the less it will cost you
  • Use mulch around your garden. It reduces the speed of evaporation and prevents the spread of weeds
  • Use sprinklers sparingly. A better option is to use a ‘soaker hose’ around the base of your plants where they need water most
  • Park your car on the lawn while you wash it – this way the lawn will get a drink while you wash the car
  • Use a broom to clean/clear your paths, not a hose

Drinking Water Safety

From source to tap - keeping our water safe to drink.

​Land and Water Forum

The Land and Water Forum brings together a range of stakeholders consisting of industry groups, electricity generators, environmental and recreational NGOs, iwi, scientists, and other organisations with a stake in freshwater and land management. They are joined by central and local government participants in developing a common direction for freshwater management in New Zealand and provide advice to the Government.

Further information

Please contact our customer services team at customerservices@westernbay.govt.nz or by phone on 571 8008 if you'd like further information.​


Page reviewed: 08 Nov 2017 4:26pm