Irrigators connected to the Virginia Pipeline Scheme (VPS), north of Adelaide, will be provided future price certainty, with SA Water preparing new long-term agreements for individual customers, to be offered in early-2020.
SA Water assumed ownership of the scheme on 1 January 2018 when a contract with Water Reticulation Systems Virginia, which was wholly-owned by TRILITY, expired.
SA Water began negotiating future pricing with the Virginia Irrigation Association (VIA) – as contractually designated representatives of the scheme’s customers – in January 2017, in anticipation of the contract’s conclusion and drew them to a close around three years later, after being unable to reach an agreed outcome.
SA Water General Manager of Customers, Strategy and Innovation Anna Jackson said the new agreements will be effective from mid-September this year, when current interim contractual arrangements conclude.
“Details on a price path to the end of the agreement in September 2032 will be provided with individual contracts, and it will balance growers’ needs for a cheap, reliable and sustainable source of water, with our need to move towards recovering the real cost of producing it,” Anna said.
“The current pricing for VPS water has remained largely unchanged for the past 20 years – held to the Consumer Price Index – and is partially subsidised by our wastewater customers, so it doesn’t reflect all the treatment and operating costs incurred in producing it.
“Moving gradually to a full cost recovery model is the fairest thing for our wider customer base, keeping prices low and stable for our wastewater customers, while still providing an affordable and sustainable product for VPS customers.
“With the exception of price, the current customer rules will remain largely unchanged and agreed annual contracted water quantities and associated flow rates will continue.
“Throughout this process, our customers have continued to receive the same high-quality recycled water and network support, but extended negotiations have created uncertainty around future pricing.
“It’s regrettable we weren’t able to reach a conclusion with the VIA sooner, but we’ve taken action to resolve this matter and provide our customers with the certainty they need to plan their businesses.
“Our VPS customers are market gardeners and modern business people, so it’s important they have direct visibility and control of the management arrangements for one of their most critical inputs – a reliable, climate-independent source of water.”
SA Water has written to all existing VPS customers advising of the new contracts, and once the offers are issued, irrigators can contact SA Water’s VPS Account Coordinator or visit its Virginia office with any questions, where interpreter services will be available at select times.
As of 1 January this year, SA Water’s metropolitan alliance partner Allwater is operating the Virginia network on SA Water’s behalf.
“Allwater will be responsible for checking water meters and assessing and repairing any water main leaks, so our VPS customers may see their vehicles in the neighbourhood from time to time,” Anna said.
“If customers have any issues or would like to report a network fault, we encourage them to call us on 8380 9994 and quote their licence number.”
The Virginia Pipeline Scheme was established in 1997 and provides around 20 gigalitres (GL) of recycled water from the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant for horticultural irrigation to around 360 customers in Virginia and surrounding areas.
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