A former Water Corporation boss believes the State Government is courting more burst water and sewerage pipes by targeting the utility's budget to prop up its finances.
Amid repeated warnings from Water Corp that budget cuts were hampering its ability to do maintenance, Jim Gill said belt-tightening was prudent "up to a point".
The chief executive of Water Corp from 1995 to 2008, Mr Gill said the Government risked "getting bitten on the backside" if the tactic led to the decaying of critical assets.
He raised the likelihood of a repeat of the early 2000s when a lack of maintenance contributed to a spate of embarrassing incidents involving burst water and sewerage mains.
Mr Gill said such incidents, including when a sewerage pipe burst in Victoria Park and flooded dozens of homes in 2005, undermined the utility's "social licence" to operate.
_"You can get away with reducing maintenance budgets in the short term but it could bite you on the backside long term," he said. _
_ "Some of the assets are getting long in the tooth. You don't want to be bursting or spilling wastewater into wetlands or rivers. _
"The Water Corp is in good shape but its maintenance costs are high as it has to meet environmental and social standards."
The comments from the respected former public service chief come after the Government revealed last month that it would strip $16 million from Water Corp's asset investment program this year.
The cuts would rise to $93 million in 2016-17 and add up to $259 million over the next 3½ years.
Water Corp said decisions taken in the Government's mid-year review would not affect its maintenance program.
It has previously warned that reductions to its budget would compromise the network.
"This risk may manifest itself with more frequent overflows from wastewater ponds and sewer blockages and lower quality discharge from treatment plants into sensitive marine areas," the utility said in November.
Water Corp said the latest cuts by the Government "will not impact on maintaining safe operations or meeting regulatory standards - both prime drivers for the Water Corporation".
Shadow water minister Dave Kelly said the Government was "cutting close to the bone" on Water Corp's maintenance spending. Water Minister Mia Davies is on leave.