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Leading Causes for a High Water Bill in Brisbane



Ever opened your water bill to find an eyewatering amount owed and no idea why it's so high? You're not alone. Many Brisbane households experience 'bill shock' when their quarterly water bill arrives, often due to issues outside of their control. Before you start panicking about how you'll pay for it or make drastic cutbacks to your water use, take a deep breath. The culprit behind your high bill is usually easily identified and remedied. We've compiled the most common causes of excess water usage in Brisbane homes so you can diagnose the problem, fix it, and avoid another surprise in three month's time. With some simple detective work and a few practical solutions, you'll be back to normal water bills in no time.



Understanding Your Water Bill in Brisbane

Understanding your water bill in Brisbane is important to keep costs under control.


Check your meter readings

Make sure the numbers on your bill match the actual readings from your water meter. If not, contact your water provider immediately to correct the bill. Misreads happen and you don’t want to pay for water you didn’t use!


Look for leaks

Alarmingly high usage often means you have leaks wasting water. Do a water meter test to check for leaks. Turn off all water at the mains and check your water meter. If it's still running, you likely have a leak. Fixing it can save hundreds of litres a day!


Assess your usage

Compare your current bill to the same period last year. If there's a spike, think about what's changed like a new pool, more people in the home or a medical issue requiring extra water. Adjusting habits like shorter showers, only running full loads in the dishwasher and fixing leaky taps can make a big difference.


Consider a water-efficient rebate

Many Brisbane homeowners are eligible for rebates on water-efficient products like rainwater tanks, dual-flush toilets, water-efficient showerheads and front-load washing machines. Switching to more efficient appliances is an easy way to cut your water bill.

Following these useful tips and making a few small changes around the home will have you well on your way to lower, more manageable water bills. Every drop counts, so start today!


Top Causes of High Water Usage in Brisbane Homes

If your water bill suddenly skyrockets, the culprit is likely hiding in plain sight. Check these common causes of high usage in Brisbane homes:


Leaky plumbing

Even a small, undetected leak can waste thousands of litres per month. Do a walk-through of your home, checking under sinks, behind toilets, water heaters, etc. for any drips or dampness. Leaks can also happen in hidden areas, so keep an eye out for warping, bad odours or patches of overgrown/green grass on your lawn. Get leaks repaired ASAP.


Inefficient appliances

Older appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, and shower heads can use significantly more water than new, water-efficient models. If your appliances are over 10 years old, consider upgrading to save money and resources.


Irrigation system issues

Faulty sprinkler timers or heads can lead to overwatering. Inspect your irrigation system regularly and adjust timers seasonally based on weather. Also, water lawns and gardens in the early morning when less will be lost to evaporation.

By identifying and addressing problems like leaks, inefficient appliances, and irrigation faults, you can gain better control of your water usage and lower bills. Small changes can have a big impact on your wallet and the environment. Why not start today?


Who Sets Brisbane's Water Price?

The Queensland Government sets and regulates Brisbane's water prices. Water for Brisbane is mostly supplied by Seqwater, a government-owned corporation. Seqwater bulk water charges make up about 50-60% of your total water bill. The rest covers distribution and retail costs from your local water authority like Urban Utilities or Queensland Urban Utilities (QUU).

Seqwater's bulk water charges are approved by the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA), an independent statutory authority. The QCA examines Seqwater's capital and operating costs to determine reasonable bulk water prices that provide a fair return on investment while keeping prices affordable for the community. Price increases are capped to the Consumer Price Index to account for inflation.

The QCA's role is to balance the interests of Seqwater and water consumers. Their decisions aim for prices that recover Seqwater's efficient costs to treat and supply water, while limiting price shocks for households and businesses. Reviews of Seqwater's bulk water charges and the QCA's pricing decisions are conducted every 3-5 years. 


Average Australian Water Bill Annually

The average Australian household water bill is around $650 per year for a one-person household. This can vary quite a bit depending on where you live, the number of people in your household and how much water you use.


Average Water Bill In Brisbane

Water usage varies from state to state, but according to Canstar Blue’s 2023 water usage review, Queenslanders rack up the most expensive water bills each quarter. Based on a survey of over 600 houses, Queensland homes received an average $240 quarterly water bill or an annual of $960.


State

Average Water Bill (Annual)

Victoria (Vic)

$764

New South Wales (NSW)

$800

Western Australia (WA)

$816

South Australia (SA)

$820

Queensland (Qld)

$960

Source: Canstar Blue research, January 2023.


How Much Water Is Used Per Extra Family Member or Roommate

In the same survey, Canstar Blue found that each additional person in the household adds a significant amount to the annual water bill. As expected, more people equals a higher water bill.


Size of Household
Average Water Bill (Annual)

1

$632

2

$836

3

$944

4

$928

5+

$1,104

Source: Canstar Blue research, January 2023.


Detecting Hidden Water Leaks

Hidden leaks are one of the most common causes for an unexpectedly high water bill. To detect any leaks on your property, here are a few steps you can take:

Check your water meter

Your water meter records how much water passes through it. Locate your metre, usually near the street in front of your house. Lift the cover and check the metre face to see if the small triangular dial is spinning when no water is being used. If it is, that indicates a leak. You may need to call a plumber to investigate further.

Do a dye test

Purchase plumbing dye tabs or drops and place them in the tank of your toilet(s). Don't flush for at least 30 minutes. Check to see if any coloured water appears in the bowl, which would indicate a leaky outlet washer or filler valve. This is an easy fix but can waste up to 200 litres a day if left unrepaired!

Monitor your water bill

Compare your current bill to the same period last year. If there's an increase of 10% or more, that could indicate a hidden leak or other issue and is worth investigating. Don't wait until you get a shockingly high bill!

By regularly checking for signs of leaks and performing simple tests, you can catch costly problems early and avoid frustration over a sky-high water bill. Staying on top of your water usage and billing is well worth the effort.




Who Sets Brisbane's Water Price?

The Queensland Government sets and regulates Brisbane's water prices. Water for Brisbane is mostly supplied by Seqwater, a government-owned corporation. Seqwater bulk water charges make up about 50-60% of your total water bill. The rest covers distribution and retail costs from your local water authority like Urban Utilities or Queensland Urban Utilities (QUU).

Seqwater's bulk water charges are approved by the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA), an independent statutory authority. The QCA examines Seqwater's capital and operating costs to determine reasonable bulk water prices that provide a fair return on investment while keeping prices affordable for the community. Price increases are capped to the Consumer Price Index to account for inflation.

The QCA's role is to balance the interests of Seqwater and water consumers. Their decisions aim for prices that recover Seqwater's efficient costs to treat and supply water, while limiting price shocks for households and businesses. Reviews of Seqwater's bulk water charges and the QCA's pricing decisions are conducted every 3-5 years.


Detecting Hidden Water Leaks

Hidden leaks are one of the most common causes for an unexpectedly high water bill. To detect any leaks on your property, here are a few steps you can take:


Check your water meter

Your water meter records how much water passes through it. Locate your metre, usually near the street in front of your house. Lift the cover and check the metre face to see if the small triangular dial is spinning when no water is being used. If it is, that indicates a leak. You may need to call a plumber to investigate further.


Do a dye test

Purchase plumbing dye tabs or drops and place them in the tank of your toilet(s). Don't flush for at least 30 minutes. Check to see if any coloured water appears in the bowl, which would indicate a leaky outlet washer or filler valve. This is an easy fix but can waste up to 200 litres a day if left unrepaired!


Monitor your water bill

Compare your current bill to the same period last year. If there's an increase of 10% or more, that could indicate a hidden leak or other issue and is worth investigating. Don't wait until you get a shockingly high bill!

By regularly checking for signs of leaks and performing simple tests, you can catch costly problems early and avoid frustration over a sky-high water bill. Staying on top of your water usage and billing is well worth the effort.






How Your Lifestyle Impacts Water Usage


The way you live in your home directly impacts your water usage and bill. Several daily habits can increase your consumption without you even realising it.

Long showers

We all enjoy a nice hot shower, but limiting your time to 5 or 10 minutes can save up to 90 litres per shower. Those extra minutes really add up over a week or month.

Running the tap

Do you leave the tap running while washing dishes, brushing your teeth or washing vegetables? Leaving the tap running for a few minutes uses more water than you might expect. Turn off the tap when not in active use and you'll cut your bill significantly.

Toilet leaks

A leaking toilet can waste huge amounts of water. Check your toilets for any leaks or running water and fix them right away. Even a small drip from a leaky seal can waste 15 litres or more per day. Fixing leaks is an easy way to lower your bill.

Washing too often

Running your washing machine or dishwasher only when full loads can also help lower your usage. Washing partial loads, especially smaller ones, uses nearly as much water as a full load. Hold off until you have enough for a proper full load.

Making minor adjustments to your daily lifestyle and habits around the home can have a big impact on your water usage and bills. Small changes really do add up to big savings in the long run. Keep an eye out for ways you can reduce waste and you'll be shocked at how much you can cut from your bill each month.


Understanding Your Water Bills

Breaking down water bills is pretty straightforward - you've got two main things to consider: usage and supply charges. Just a heads up, the info we’re sharing is specific to a Brisbane water bill from Queensland Urban Utilities. But depending on where you're at, they might slap different names on similar charges.


Water Usage Charges:

So, when we talk about these charges, it's like a two-part deal. First, there's the state bulk water price, which is what your retailer forks over to the State Government for every kilolitre of treated water. Then, you've got the distributor-retailer price, and that's what your retailer charges you for keeping the water quality top-notch and delivering it straight to your place.


Fixed Water Supply Charge:

Now, this one's a set fee covering the effort your retailer puts into keeping the water network up and running. How often you pay this fee - daily, quarterly, or yearly - depends on where you're living. Oh, and in some spots, they might tweak the water service charges based on the size of the meter that's handling each property. Usually, though, a 20mm meter is the standard for most homes.

Under the Brisbane Council, the state bulk water price comes in at $3.122 per kilolitre, the distributor price is between $0.793 and $1.569 per quarter and the water service charge is $56.13 per quarter. So with all those things considered, you should have a pretty good understanding of how the costs you receive at bill time relate to the service you’ve utilised.





How to Track Your Water Usage?

To keep your water bill under control, it’s important to track how much you’re using. There are a few ways to monitor your water consumption:

Meter readings

Check your water meter regularly, ideally once a week or at least once a month. Record the numbers and compare them to your previous readings. The difference will tell you how much water you’ve used over that time period. Most water providers also allow you to provide meter readings online or through an app to get more accurate billing.

Smart home devices

If you have a smart home system, you may be able to connect smart water sensors that can detect leaks or track usage in real-time. Some systems also allow you to set alerts for high usage so you're notified right away of any spikes. Smart water valves can also automatically turn off the water supply in the event of a leak.

Sub-meters

For more detailed monitoring, you can install sub-meters on things like irrigation systems, pools, water heaters or other major water-using appliances. Sub-meters will measure the water usage for that specific item so you can pinpoint if there are any inefficient fixtures or habits that need adjusting. Some water providers may even offer rebates for installing sub-metres.

Keeping a close eye on how much water you're using each day, week and month is key to gaining control of your water bill. Small changes in usage or fixing even minor leaks can make a big difference in how much you're paying each billing cycle. Make water monitoring a habit and you'll be rewarded with lower, more predictable bills.



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