FARMERS should get reduced water rates to offset price increases of up to 250 per cent over the past decade.
PIRSA chief executive Ian Nightingale says it is unfair farmers are paying for increases caused by the desalination plant, and has called for an off-peak rate for farmers and reduced regional charges compared to metropolitan prices.
Mr Nightingale has taken the unusual step of appealing to the Essential Services Commission of SA for relief from SA Water bills, which he says have increased by 250 per cent in some areas over 10 years.
"PIRSA is concerned that current water pricing policy may negatively impact on the state's ability to deliver on the Government's strategic initiative `Premium Food and Wine from our clean environment'," he says in a submission to an ESCOSA review of SA Water's revenue.
Mr Nightingale said he had made the submission based on the concerns of industry representatives.
These included grape growers from the Clare region and McLaren Vale, livestock producers on the Narrung Peninsula, pig and poultry farmers in the Mid North and vegetable growers at Virginia and Murray Bridge.
"The profitability of these businesses is being challenged by the ... rises in retail water charges," he said.
A significant contributor to the increase was the desalination plant, which was of little benefit to non-residential customers, he said.
Mr Nightingale cited the Clare Valley where water charges have risen from 97c/megalitre in 2002 to $3.45 today.
Mid North pig producer Butch Moses said in recent years his water bill had increased from $10,000 a year to $60,000 and was projected to rise to $100,000. "This is going to hit the intensive producers really hard," he said.
An SA Water spokesman said further subsidies for farmers were not possible. He said SA was a party to a national agreement that required pricing to at least recover the cost of providing water to customers.
"Importantly, due to the Government's policy of state-wide pricing, regional water users are already subsidised in respect to the price they pay for water services," he said.
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