A new verification and payment process is proposed for two water filling stations established to help rural households during the drought, with the altered system designed to ensure the facilities are used responsibly and by the people they are intended to assist.
Yesterday’s Ordinary Council meeting endorsed the introduction of Water Access Cards (WACs) for the filling stations at the Armidale Arboretum and McKie Parkway in Guyra. The meeting resolved to publically advertise fees that would be associated with the card, to cover the cost of its administration.
A report to the meeting says the move to WACs was necessary to help regulate the amount of town water being removed at the filling stations.
With the Guyra and Armidale town supplies under Level 5 water restrictions, the report says the service provided by the stations was being abused by people other than the rural residents they were implemented to assist. That included water carters who had been transporting it outside the Armidale region.
The report says Council had taken action to ensure more appropriate use of the service, however, it remained “vulnerable to abuse”.
The stations were established in late September to provide emergency domestic supplies for Armidale region properties that are not connected to the town water supplies and have an approved and occupied house.
“Their intent is to assist these household who have run out of water for domestic use, to tide them over until they can access a supply from a water cater,” Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray.
Under the proposed new system, the cards will be the only way to access water from the filling stations and will enable targeted residents to verify they meet the criteria. Once they complete an application form to register, the card will provide access to a monthly allocation.
The proposed fees, on public exhibition until 22 November, include a $100 one-off access fee to obtain a card, and a pre-paid water charge fee of $3.90 per kilolitres. The $3.90 per kilolitre fee is already in place for people currently accessing the filling stations using credit card payments.
“The proposed system was identified as the most cost-effective option for customers and Council as the administrator of the service,” Cr Murray said.
The Council report says the $100 access fee is less than the $225 annual charge for all town residences to access the Armidale and Guyra town water supplies.
While the exhibition period is underway and until the proposed system is implemented, the operating hours for the filling stations will continue to be limited to 6am to 6pm Monday to Friday, to assist with monitoring to ensure the service is being used appropriately.