A massive 43 billion litres of drinking water from the Water Corporation’s network was lost through bursts and leaks or left unbilled because of faulty meters, WA’s Auditor General has found.
In a report seized on by the State Opposition, Colin Murphy said the Water Corp risked losing face with the public unless it turned the situation around.
According to the report, which was released this afternoon, about 12 per cent of the 357 billion litres of water the utility supplied State-wide in the 2012-13 financial year was unaccounted for.
Of this, 30 billion litres was “physically lost”, largely as a result of bursts and leaks in the smaller pipes servicing households in suburbs and towns around WA.
Most of the balance stemmed from water that was consumed but not billed because of inaccuracies with customers’ meters, while water taken for firefighting and stolen supplies accounted for the rest.
Mr Murphy said on most levels the State-controlled Water Corp was performing well in the management of its water network but there were areas for improvement and it faced “key” challenges.
He said the amount of water the utility lost in 2012-13 was about 10 billion litres more than its own minimum benchmark allowed and was, therefore, unacceptable.
“While water loss cannot be completely eliminated from any network, it can be minimised, and it is disappointing that Water Corporation is currently losing over 10 billion litres a year more than their benchmark,” Mr Murphy said.
The comments from Mr Murphy came as his report warned about the risks to the Water Corp from above-benchmark water losses.
“Water loss is a risk for the Water Corporation because it affects the sustainability of supply, reduces revenue, and can diminish its credibility as an advocate of water saving amongst its customers,” the report found.
Mr Murphy said the Water Corp had developed measures to reduce the incidence of water loss, including a leak detection system and a “risk-based” approach to replacing ageing pipes.
Although he noted the measures had “prevented” 3.4 billion litres of leakage, Mr Murphy said the publicly owned group would also have to significantly increase the amount it spent on replacing pipes.
“The overall low level of leaks and bursts in the network has meant that the costs of pipe replacement have also been low pipes were replaced only when they failed,” the report said.
“In 2009-10, the Water Corporation spent $9 million on pipe replacement.
“However, the pipe network is ageing and this will increase the cost of replacement.
“Between 2009-10 and 2012-13 an average of $17.25 million a year was invested but this will increase to $41.5 million a year on average between 2013-14 and 2018-19.”
Shadow water minister Dave Kelly said it was damning that the Water Corp was losing a “staggering” volume of water when it was spending millions on an advertising campaign to encourage people to cut their use.
Mr Kelly said the report also highlighted the folly of the Barnett Government’s decisions to reduce the corporation’s budget given the risks inherent in an ageing supply network.