Water complaints and case studies

Table 4 – Top five water issues, July to September 2023, including the previous four quarters 

Primary and secondary issue

Jul –Sep 23

Apr – Jun 23

Jan – Mar 23

Oct – Dec 22

Jul – Sep 22

Billing > high > disputed






General > energy / water






Customer service > poor service






Customer service > failure to respond






Customer service > incorrect advice / information






Water complaints

As prices in the water sector are regulated by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), water has not seen significant price increases like the energy sector. However, customers can still be impacted financially by high bills or other unanticipated repair costs.

Water infrastructure and the responsibilities that come with it are different to gas and electricity. There are many factors relating to water accounts that can cause issues at a customer’s home or business, from undetected leaks to long periods of estimated meter reads, or issues with tenants, to tree roots causing damage to pipes. Where problems with water don’t differ from energy is the impact on the customer, either financially or personally, with the additional stress of trying to resolve the issue.

We can help customers by completing an independent review of their bills or claim or by providing advice and information about the assistance that might be available to them. The following case studies highlight some of the different situations that can impact customers.  

Case studies

Case study  Undetected leak from a non-standard water service

In May 2023, a customer received a water bill for over $5,300, which he thought was too high. He lived on a rural property and after he received the bill, a plumber found a leak next to the meter. The leak had not been detected earlier as the meter was located approximately 300 meters away from the house and the road to the property, and was difficult to access.

He contacted his water provider and it offered to reduce the bill to $2,700. He thought the reduction should be higher as there was no way for him to know about the leak and the meter access was less visible than an urban meter. He thought that the property size and location of the meter should be considered when working out how much the bill should be reduced by. He also thought that the provider could have told him of the increase in water usage sooner.

The customer was stressed by the situation and was experiencing financial difficulties due to loss of employment. He wanted the water provider to reduce the bill further and to discuss an appropriate payment plan or other assistance that might be available.

EWON referred the matter to a specialist team at the water provider for resolution. The provider contacted the customer and said it had an undetected leak policy, however the connection type at the property was a non-standard water service which was not eligible for a rebate under its policy. It explained that a non-standard water service is where the property is remote from a reticulated water system and the connection of private supply is installed and maintained by the property owners themselves. It also advised that due to the complexity of a non-standard water service, leaks may go unnoticed and can be difficult to locate. The property owner should implement actions or devices for early leak detection.

The water provider wrote to the customer in April 2023 to say the usage was higher than normal and encouraged him to get a licensed plumber to find the cause of the increase in consumption. This was the first time that it had become aware of the increased usage and was the first opportunity it had to notify him of the increase.

"" While the customer’s connection type did not qualify for a rebate under its policy, as a customer service gesture, the water provider stood by its initial offer of a $2,600 rebate, a credit equal to 50% of the increase in water consumption to the customers water account. It also encouraged the customer to get in touch to discuss a payment arrangement for the balance of the account, if required.

Case study  Notify water provider about rebate eligibility

A customer was having trouble paying her bills and sought the assistance of a community organisation. She received some payment assistance towards her water bill and the community organisation told her she was not receiving any rebates and she had been eligible for them since 2015.

The customer thought that when she opened her water account she had provided all her details to the water provider to ensure that she received the rebates. The water provider offered to backdate the rebates for 12 months, however she asked them to apply it back to the date the account was opened, when she first provided her pension details.

EWON initially referred the complaint to a specialist team at the water provider, however the customer returned to EWON as she was not satisfied with the response she received.

EWON requested information from the water provider, and it confirmed the customer had been in contact in 2015 and the rebate was initially applied to her account, however in September 2016, Services Australia had advised the water provider that the customer was no longer eligible to receive rebates. The water provider wrote to the customer in October 2016 to say she was no longer eligible.

The customer became eligible for the rebate again in 2017, however she did not contact the water provider to advise them or provide the new pension card details.

The water provider was advised of the customers eligibility in June 2023 and validated this with Services Australia. It applied the rebate to the customer’s current bill and backdated it to the four previous quarterly bills. It also waived late payment fees that had been charged to her account.

"" EWON explained to the customer that it is a customer’s responsibility to notify a water provider when they become eligible for a rebate and to ensure that their pension card details are up to date, as providers are not notified when a customer becomes eligible. We explained that the water provider had applied the rebate in line with its policies and that this was reasonable. After the rebate was applied to the account, it was in credit by over $500 and the water provider would contact her to arrange for the credit to be refunded to her.

Case study  Bills sent to property resulted in water restriction for tenant

An advocate, who is the property manager of the supply address contacted EWON after the water supply at the property was restricted in September 2023. He thought the water restriction was unreasonable and asked EWON to check it had been done appropriately as the property owner had not received bills or been aware of a debt on the account.

After the water was restricted, the advocate contacted the water provider, and it said the water had been restricted due to non-payment of an outstanding bill. The advocate arranged for full payment and the water supply was restored.

The advocate advised EWON that a tenant had moved into the property in October 2022 and water bills were sent to the supply address, however as they were addressed to the landlord, they were discarded by the tenant. This meant that the property owner had not received the bills.

EWON requested additional information from the water provider and confirmed that the water restriction was done appropriately. The water provider had sent the required notices to the supply address and had made multiple attempts to contact the customer by SMS and telephone, to discuss payment of the account.

The water provider said it didn’t know the property was tenanted and arranged for the water supply to be reconnected as soon as it was aware. EWON advised the advocate that it is the customer’s responsibility to update contact information, including postal address details to ensure all correspondence is delivered to the correct address.

"" As a customer service gesture, the water provider waived fees of $130 for restricting and restoring the water supply and confirmed that the details had been updated to ensure the property manager would receive the bills going forward. We also provided the advocate with information relating to tenants rights and assistance that the water provider offered to tenants, if required.