The body overseeing Rarotonga’s multi-million dollar water project says the estimated cost is after allowing for a quota of free water for every household.
Project management unit spokesperson Kate Woodruffe says assuming a 200 litre-per-day free allowance per family, estimated monthly water costs for a four-person household might come to about $33. For an eight-person household, the bill is projected to be closer to $71.
If the free allowance per household is increased to 400 litres a day, the charges would decrease to about $28 and $60, respectively.
Domestic tariffs are forecast at about 80c per 1000 litres of water on the smaller free quota; 91c if households are awarded a higher free quota.
Cook Islands News has been issued a 2015 Water Tariff Report, which government is basing its pricing on. It suggests the commercial tariff may well be in the range of 80c to $1.30 per 1000 litres of water.
However Takuvaine resident and local businessman Teokotai George says the charges are “ridiculous and a bad idea”.
“We don’t want to get charged for water usage and that’s what we have been fighting all these years,” says George.
“There is a reason why we pay tax and that should cover all these services. Why put more burden on the public?
“There have been issues with this project from the start. The total cost looks to go past $100 million now. I think the water charges are to cover all these costs that has ballooned over the years.”
However, the government report says the incoming water tariff is intended to recover full operating costs of the agency looking after Rarotonga’s water supply, To Tatou Vai. It is not intended to recover the capital cost, the report says.
Operating costs for To Tatou Vai were estimated at $1.41 million per year, including $855,000 for staff.
Woodruffe says the estimated charges do not yet take into account a final cost of operating and maintaining the completed network with the new filtration and treatment works in place.
“Any future tariffs will need to take into account actual operational costs, including the disinfection system chosen by government, and any free allocations.”
She also says a widely accepted allowance for domestic household use, not including agriculture, is 200 litres per person per day. However, the average person in Rarotonga uses double this amount of water each day.
The average daily water production, based on monitoring data collected in 2015, is about 8.5 million litres. Domestic users are estimated to be using about half of that, and tourism about 750,000 litres.
That is part of the reason the water authorities are calling for public restraint, in the face of dry weather and potential shortages.