The West

The Barnett Government will come under pressure to reduce rocketing water bills after the State's economic watchdog said prices for the average city household should fall by $100 a year.

Releasing its report into the efficiency of WA's water tariffs yesterday, the Economic Regulation Authority said metropolitan water consumers should not have to pay so much for water services.

It wants wastewater charges to fall 20.7 per cent, or $128 a year, from July to more than offset a slight 6.9 per cent, or $38 a year, increase in water usage fees.

It said the reduction could be partly achieved by cutting the corporation's profitability.

Also, it said a cut was justified because developers paid for corporation assets yet the corporation still charged consumers for infrastructure that cost it nothing.

Subsequent price increases would need only to be largely in line with inflation and there would be "no bill increases in excess of 5 per cent per annum".

However, not everyone would be a winner under the report. The ERA said a typical country corporation customer would face a combined water and wastewater charge increase of 5.8 per cent or $70.

And customers with Aqwest in Bunbury and Busselton Water would be slugged an extra 12.3 per cent ($39) and 6.8 per cent ($27) respectively.

ERA chairman Lyndon Rowe acknowledged that the report's recommendations, if implemented in full, would slash the revenue to the Government from the corporation by $1.4 billion over three years.

But he said this should not stop the Government making the suggested changes if it had the best interests of households in mind.

"If the cost of (the corporation's) funds has gone down, why shouldn't consumers benefit from that," Mr Rowe said.

Water Minister Bill Marmion appeared to baulk at an ERA recommendation to change the way wastewater charges were calculated, saying it would leave about 150,000 households worse off.

He said the Government would consider the report but denied consumers were paying too much.

The West Australian

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