Water complaints and case studies

Table 5 – Water issues, July to September 2022, including the previous four quarters

Primary and secondary issue

Jul 22 – Sep 22

Apr 22– Jun 22

Jan 22 – Mar 22

Oct 21 – Dec 21

Jul 21 – Sep 21

Billing > high > disputed






Customer service > poor service






Billing > Other






Customer service > Failure to respond






Land > property damage / restoration






General > energy / water






Table 6 – Water complaint breakdown, July to September 2022 

Complaint type

Number of complaints

% total water complaints

General enquiry



Complaint enquiry



Refer to higher level









Changes in water competition regulations 

EWON has a number of water members which are private water schemes licenced under the Water Industry Competition (WIC) regulatory regime. The Water Industry Competition Act 2006 (WICA 2006) was intended to encourage competition and innovation in water supply and sewerage service provision by establishing a licensing regime for private sector entrants administered by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). The Water Industry Competition Amendment Act 2021 (WICA 2021) was passed in November 2021 following a statutory review of WICA 2006 and consultation by NSW Government. NSW Government is now consulting on a draft Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation 2022, which will amend the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation 2021 and support the operation of WICA 2021. 

WICA 2021 and the updated supporting regulation aim to: 

  • finesse the licensing regime and approval process 
  • introduce some customer protections, such as a standard customer contract that will be deemed to apply to residential and small business customers of private water schemes 
  • improve some existing customer protections, such as strengthening last resort arrangements if a private water scheme fails 
  • increase IPART’s auditing, reporting functions, investigatory functions, powers and penalties for offences. 

EWON’s response to this consultation will be driven by insights drawn from the complaints we receive from customers of private water schemes. The following complaints demonstrate that many of the issues private water scheme customers complain about are similar to the complaints public water utilities customers raise, such as:

  • new connection costs 
  • payment difficulties 
  • sewerage overflows and blockages 
  • claims. 

  Case Study: Increase in new connection costs 

A customer bought a vacant lot and requested a water connection from the private water scheme that serviced the area. He was invoiced for just over $5,000 for the new connection which he considered to be reasonable. A few months later, he was quoted over $10,000 for additional new connection costs. When he contacted the private water scheme and queried the quote, the scheme advised that the additional costs were required for the development to go ahead. He contacted EWON for assistance as he considered this to be unreasonable. EWON referred the complaint back to the private water scheme at a senior level. The customer returned to EWON and advised that the complaint had not been resolved. 

The private water scheme advised EWON that the initial cost had been a standard fee based on a single residential dwelling, as the customer’s application form indicated it would be a single dwelling. The customer’s development plan later confirmed that there would be a granny flat, which was considered a second dwelling. This therefore changed the new connection requirements and costs. EWON’s review identified that information about the different requirements and costs for single and multiple dwellings was available on the private water scheme’s website and in its pricing factsheets. The disputed quote included two water tanks and two water pumps. The private water scheme advised that it could potentially provide a less expensive option whereby the customer could install one larger duplex tank servicing both dwellings instead of two individual tanks. The customer agreed to continue discussing options directly with the private water scheme. 

  Case Study: Customer wanted to arrange affordable payment plan 

A customer received an invoice from a private water scheme for $5,500 in July 2022. She contacted the scheme and it advised that the amount was from an unpaid infrastructure fee from 2019. It had recently completed an audit and identified the unpaid debt. The customer was not disputing that she had to pay the fee but wanted to arrange a payment plan. The private water scheme advised she would have to pay a minimum of $800 per month, which she was unable to afford. She contacted EWON for assistance, advising that she was seeking a payment arrangement of $200 per month. 

EWON referred the matter to the private water scheme for resolution at a higher level, which the customer accepted knowing she could return to us if she was unhappy with the outcome. While members are not required to provide EWON with the outcome of these referrals, the private water scheme advised EWON it had agreed to a payment plan of $200 per month. 

  Case Study: Customer attempts to claim plumber costs

A customer found that his sink and bath would not drain properly, and the water was diverting back to his toilet. He engaged a private plumber who jet-blasted the pipes as they were blocked with sewerage, which was determined to be coming from the recycled water tank in the street. He contacted his private water scheme which attended and replaced a failed pump. He submitted a claim of $350 to the private water scheme to cover the cost of the plumber. The private water scheme denied the claim and advised that it sent a notice in 2017 advising that he should call the private water scheme first before engaging the services of a plumber for any issues. He contacted EWON for assistance as he did not consider this to be reasonable. 

EWON referred the matter to the private water scheme for resolution at a higher level, which the customer accepted knowing she could return to us if he was unhappy with the outcome. While members are not required to provide EWON with the outcome of these referrals, the private water scheme advised EWON it had chosen to reimburse the full cost of the plumber following further review of the customer’s complaint.