Water complaints and case studies

Diagram showing water complaint breakdown

Table 5 – Water issues, October to December 2022, including the previous four quarters

Primary and secondary






Billing > high > disputed






Customer service >
poor service






General > energy/water






Land > property






Customer service >
failure to respond






Table 6 – Water complaint breakdown, October to December 2022 

Complaint type

Number of complaints


General enquiry



Complaint enquiry



Refer to higher level









Assistance for vulnerable customers

There are a range of assistance programs that residential water customers can access, such as concession rebates, Payment Assistance Schemes (PAS) and payment arrangements. EWON can discuss options with customers, and will often provide referrals, however there are limitations to assistance for businesses. 

As water prices are regulated by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, the cause of high bills is not generally attributed to price increases. Factors that can impact a high bill include concealed leaks or affordability concerns. EWON receives many different types of water complaints, however financial disadvantage or vulnerability is a consistent component of many complaints.

 Farmer impacted by undetected water leak

A customer received a high water bill for the period 1 July to 30 September 2021 for over $2,000. He then received another bill for the period 1 October to 31 December 2021 for $300. Both bills were higher than the previous 12 months when his water bills were between $30 to $60. The customer was an elderly farmer significantly impacted by extreme weather conditions.

In February 2022, the water provider contacted him to alert him to a potential leak at the property. Due to the recent weather conditions including excess rain, and the resulting damage to a paddock, it was difficult to locate the leak. The paddock was inaccessible to his vehicles, and he had to hire a local contractor with an excavator to dig access along 500 meters of water pipes between the meter and the residential property that serviced the supply. This cost the customer $700, however the leak was located and fixed.

He contacted the water provider and requested special consideration due to the ground conditions and the financial difficulty that the large bill would place on him. The water provider offered to apply a $500 credit to the account as a good will gesture.

 The customer contacted EWON for further assistance. We referred the matter to the water provider for resolution at a higher level. Due to the circumstances, the water provider applied an additional credit to the account to reduce the customer’s bill to the previous average charge he had incurred before the leak.

 Restriction notice relating to a deceased estate

An advocate received a water restriction notice due to an overdue balance of $2,200. He lived at the property alone, was not currently working and was experiencing financial difficulty.

The property was owned by the advocate’s relative, who had recently passed away and the overdue balance was from before the advocate moved in. The owner of the property had been on a payment plan with the water provider prior to their death, however had not paid the account balance.

The advocate had previously contacted the water provider to inform it the account holder had passed away and to request the account be put in his name. He thought the balance would be waived and he would be responsible for future bills. In another discussion the water provider requested he establish a payment plan, or have the debt passed on to the customer’s estate. He did not think that it was reasonable as he was not living at the property at the time the debt was accrued.

The advocate contacted EWON for assistance as he was concerned about the water supply being restricted. EWON explained that water accounts are in the name of a property owner and could not be opened and closed at the request of a person living there. As the advocate would become the owner of the property after his relative’s estate administration process was complete, the water account would then transfer into his name. We advised him to contact the solicitor of the estate to discuss the arrears at the property and probate concerns.

 The water provider placed a hold on the restriction and said it would contact the advocate directly to discuss the account and any eligibility for assistance with the account. The advocate advised EWON that he was happy with the additional information and would speak with the solicitor and the water provider directly.

 Customer misses water license renewal while overseas

A customer was overseas between June 2022 and October 2022 and returned to find a notice from her water provider advising she was required to extend her water licence for another 10 years. The renewal due date was 31 July 2022.

Just after she got back she received a second notice advising a late fee would be applied to the account if there was no application to extend the duration of the licence approval. She received a bill from the water provider for $1,000, which she paid the day after she returned from overseas and wrote to request it waive the late fee due to her circumstances. However, she received a notification in November 2022 saying it would not waive the fee and the full bill was payable.

The customer contacted EWON for further assistance as she did not think it was reasonable to be financially disadvantaged when she did not receive the notices. We initially referred the complaint to the water provider for resolution at a higher level, however the customer returned to us as she did not hear from the water provider.

 EWON contacted the water provider and at its request, provided a copy of the customer’s flight itinerary which showed the dates that she was away from the property. The water provider refunded the late fee of $450 to the customer.