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Melbourne residents held to ransom on water

A Stonington Council resident and Yarra Valley Water 'customer' (can you be a 'customer' if you have no choice in the matter? What about a 'serf'?) writes to us:

"Dear Candobetter,

I have just opened a Yarra Valley Water brochure which came with the last account. The account tells me I use over 500 litres water per day with no-one else in the house,where the dishwasher is not used, the car is not washed the lawn is not watered, the washing is done rarely (and when it is rinsing water is carried in buckets to the parched garden), the toilet is flushed as little as possible,and there are no leaks. Yarra Valley insist their meters never run fast so that usage figure is correct and I am asked to reduce this usage to 155 litres per day.

How can I do this without seriously compromising health and hygiene?!!

As far as I know Yarra Valley Water is a private company that bills me for water. It is one of many . It is not a council. Water used to be supplied by the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works- but I think there have been a few incarnations scince then and to do it justice I would need to do some research. Not sure what the reponsibility is of Yara Valley Water."

Firstly, we see that the Victorian Government has succeeded in completely confusing this constituent. Yarra Valley Water is actually owned by the Victorian Government, but it has been corporatised with the effect of distancing responsibility and removing the Government from direct accountability to the electorate. It is as if Melbourne Water is still in the same location but has changed the name of the street so that it can no longer be found.

Our correspondent goes on to describe the literature she has received promoting this affront to democracy, hygiene and tax-payer affordability. Due to the government's corporatisation of water-distribution in conjunction with forcing a massive increase in consumers (via population growth without the consent of the community) prices are going up - well most first graders could do that sum.

Page 1 of the brochure, "Preparing for our future", has a picture of a little blond girl, laptop on lap, eucalypts in the background.

Page 2 of the Brochure has this large heading:

"Helping Melbourne to grow"

and continues in bold- "average bill to increase by about $35 per quarter"

Underneath the paragraph reads:

"While the price increase is absolutely necessary, we understand that it will have an impact on some of our customers. [Note the dishonest gloss: it must have an 'impact' on all of their customers, and more and more as the financial depression bites.] We will provide information to help you prepare your household for higher bills and we are committed to ensuring that the average water bill will no more than double over the 5 year period between July 2008 and July 2013,consistent with previous commitments by the state government....."

And, on the last page:


"Why do prices need to rise?


"The increased prices will pay for essential projects to increase Melbourne's water supplies, service new growth and protect the environment..."

A little further down:

Preparing for the future

"The price increase will also help us to build extensive new water and sewerage infrastructure to service Melbourne's rapid growth, (our correspondent's emphasis) including provision of major water recycling projects while maintaining and renewing the existing infrastructure.

The big question:

Why didn't Yarra Valley Water (a corporation owned by Victoria) inform these residents that the State Government was pushing population growth upon them and that these exponential price rises would be the consequences if growth were not stopped? And that the only alternative would be to decrease water-use to below normally acceptable or possible levels in an every more densely populated urban environment?

I am sure that Yarra Valley Water would have answers and excuses for not discussing these questions in depth, but only ones which would reinforce Victorians' loss of self-government and control over vital resources.

State Government has moral and civic duty to indemnify constituents

The State Government has failed their duty to adequately inform, consult and represent Melbourne people about its responsibility for Victoria's aggressive demographic growth policy and the consequences of this to cost of living for the electorate. The Government thus a moral and civic duty to indemnify constituents against higher charges. There is no way that Yarra Water can guarantee that prices will not double again... and again... and again... after the five year period it guarantees them for. And, doubling the price of water, even once, is totally unacceptable. In fact, part of Yarra Valley Water's brief is that it

"(f) Must manage its business operations to maintain the long-term financial viability for the Licensee".

How can it do this without constantly raising prices as Melbourne's population constantly rises?

Why did the Victorian Government corporatise Melbourne Water into commercial parcels like Yarra Valley Water? One theory is that the Government intends to sell these corporate bodies off to public shareholders, as happened with Telstra. It is nigh impossible to exert real control over corporations, as we learned in a high court decision on the Wheat Board, See "Justice Michael Kirby on Why Privatisation is wrong"so the prospect of marketing water to a captive population which has no choice but to purchase it will be very attractive to the psychopaths who are buying up and privatising water all over the world.

Maud Barlowe, who leads a global grass-roots network against erosion of basic rights by governments colluding in the commercialisation and inflation of water prices through induced scarcity (via forced population growth, for instance), warns that:

...the global corporate cartel that I worried about when I wrote my first book, Blue Gold has come to pass, and water is being more and more corporately controlled. Now we all know about the delivery of water by these big utilities, Suez, Vivendi, or Veolia, and that continues apace and of course bottled water which is an enormous industry.

But the one that kind of was newer to me was the creation of a massive new water reuse technology which is being heavily heavily funded by governments, particularly by US and European governments, which I think is going to be a disincentive to enact water protection laws or to enforce water protection laws because we’re building a massive international industry to clean water up and there is going to be trade and environmental services so-called, through the WTO and GATS (General Agreement on Trade and Services) around water technology cleanup. And I envisage a world in 20 years when we’ve dried out so much of the planet and all of the oceans are ringed by massive desalination plants, run by nuclear power. That’s not in my head. That’s coming. That’s for sure. Those plans are there. Which is terribly polluting, a horrible, polluting, energy intensive industry. And that people—rich people—will buy bottled water from the few remote, clean places left on earth or take it from the corporations from clouds—literally that technology is being developed—while millions and millions more die. This is just the future that I can see unless we start to change course so that the ecological crisis, the human rights crisis, and the corporate control are just absolutely so clear to me."

Source: Video: Maude Barlow: Water Stress


A predicted price hike to $936 by 2013 for Yarra Valley water and sewerage is due to a lack of planning on the part of the State government. While the Premier of Victoria, Mr Brumby, insists on increasing our population and extending the urban sprawl, he is making water more expensive by having residents pay for the extra infrastructure needed to maintain the supply for our increasing numbers.
We have no population plan or policy, and without a target for sustainable numbers, there is no way of planning water supply or other essential infrastructures.
"Sustainable growth" is often heard, but the public are being hoaxed. People are taken in by terms like "green" and "eco-friendly" and "sustainable" when the truth is they are likely to be complete green-washing!

The desalination plant and the north-south pipeline are questionable with regards to long-term sustainability and costs.
The scarcity of water, a basic essential for our gardens, ecology, agriculture, hygiene and consumption, shows that our growth is far from being sustainable!

Governments collect more revenues and taxes, and the pro-growth businesses are placated, but the vast majority of Victorian families are being squeezed and stressed due to our government's insistence on rampant growth at all costs!

Our governments are obliged to enforce policies that are in the interests of the general public, not themselves or a small minority.

What many people do not realise in that the Essentail Services Commission is nothing but a rubber stamp for water price increases. Basically Melbourne Water increases its spending projections (such as through desalination plants and pipelines) - then the ESC has no option but to approve the increase. Everyone then gets a higher bill. So the government can point to the ESC and say an independent body increased the fees - when in fact the ESC is totally tied down and can't do anything but increase prices if the Government and Melbourne Water want to.

However, spare a though for 55,000 of us poor country folk who last year received a bill from Melbourne Water. I personally live without being connected to any services, and get my water from a tank. I am no where near any water, sewerage or drainage infrastructure, there is no Melbourne Water infrastructure for more than 10km, and the water from my place runs via a local creek into a reservoir owned by Southern Rural Water. I received a bill from Melbourne Water for "Waterway Services". Melbourne Water has failed to tell me what I am supposedly paying for.

Worst of all I traced back through the legislation and found that the charge was imposed by declaring large parts of Victoria eg Macedon Ranges, Yarra Valley and Phillip Island as being in the "Metropolis" of Melbourne (that is within the "city" of Melbourne). No one in their right mind could make such a declaration. I suspect this was quite illegal. However, because Melbourne Water (formerly the MMBW) could only operate in Melbourne, and they wanted to get some money from country people as well - why not corrupt the legislative process and issue a totally false declaration.? Brumby will stop at nothing to impose "stealth" water taxes on everyone in the State - even those who live sustainably and don't use any water they themselves don't collect. Its obvious this has nothing to do with sustainability - if they were serious about sustainability they would switch to water volume only charges and abolish the disproportionally high service fees. No I suspect this is once again about helping those good old developers who will be building all that infrastructure at our expense.