Water for Queensland

Our role in
Queensland water

  • Urban retail water
  • Urban bulk water
  • Rural water
  • Queensland-wide issues

The QCA currently has no role in urban retail water.  In the past, we monitored water prices in south east Queensland (SEQ) to assess whether households and businesses are paying a price that is comparable with the costs of providing the relevant services. We did not set or recommend prices.

We believe that our past public and independent reviews of prices in SEQ assisted in constraining water retailers from exercising their monopoly power at that time.

We recommended a long-term regulatory framework for SEQ to improve the effectiveness of price monitoring.  The Queensland Government has not accepted this framework at this stage.

Retail water prices

Retail water prices in SEQ are set by the five water retailers. They typically include the following components:

  • a sewerage access charge, paid as a fixed charge per property or connection
  • a water access charge, paid as a fixed charge per property or connection
  • the bulk water price, paid per litre of water used.  The bulk water price is set by the Queensland Government to recover the cost of bulk infrastructure such as dams and treatment plants
  • retail-distribution water prices, paid per litre of water used. Many water retailers have 'tiers' of water prices, meaning that water prices increase as water use increases.

SEQ retailers

There are five water retailers in SEQ, who are also responsible for water distribution and sewage collection, treatment and disposal:

Gold Coast, Logan and Redland City Council reclaimed responsibility for water and sewerage services following the disestablishment of Allconnex water on 1 July 2012.

The supply of bulk water involves large investments in infrastructure such as dams, treatment plants and manufactured water assets that serve a large number of users.

We aim to protect users from the possible adverse consequences of  monopoly power, including higher than necessary prices and poor service, while allowing bulk water providers to recover the efficient costs of their large capital investments.

We investigate and recommend bulk water prices in south east Queensland at the request of the Queensland Government. 

We also undertake price monitoring investigations of the bulk water services provided by the Gladstone Area Water Board to industrial, electricity generation and local government customers in the Gladstone area of central Queensland on direction from the Queensland Government.

'Rural water' is water delivered to industries in rural and regional areas.

While rural water includes the use of water in the mining and energy industries, our role is limited to the use of water for irrigation.

Irrigation is used in water supply schemes throughout central and southern Queensland for cropping and horticulture.

We are responsible for recommending irrigation prices charged by two service providers:

  • SunWater, a government-owned corporation which supplies water to irrigators in rural and regional Queensland (outside of south east Queensland)
  • Seqwater, a government statutory authority which supplies water to irrigators in south east Queensland.

Our recommendations are considered by our shareholding Minister, who determines irrigation prices received by SunWater and Seqwater.

Our reviews of irrigation prices aim to promote viable irrigation in Queensland and the efficient use of our natural water resource.

Irrigation schemes

There are two forms of irrigation schemes.

Bulk water supply schemes

Burdekin weir

Bulk water supply schemes supplement natural water resources by using dams and weirs to increase the yield and reliability of watercourses such as rivers and streams.

Dams and weirs can also be used to re-charge groundwater for use by irrigators.



Distribution systems

water pipes

Distribution systems use a network of pipes and/or channels to deliver water to properties which are not necessarily adjacent to a watercourse. 

Distribution systems can enable a greater geographical spread of irrigation districts and can facilitate common infrastructure such as mills and processing facilities.



Irrigation prices

Irrigation prices reviewed by the QCA generally take the form of a 'two-part tariff'. This means that irrigators pay two types of prices:

Fixed tariffs

Fixed tariffs are paid according to the amount of water access entitlements (WAEs) held by irrigators.

There are various forms of WAEs that give an irrigator the right to a portion of the available water within the irrigation scheme.

Irrigators that own WAEs pay fixed tariffs regardless of their actual water use.

Fixed tariffs are also know as Part A tariffs (in bulk water supply schemes) and Part C tariffs (in distribution systems).

Volumetric tariffs

Volumetric tariffs are charges paid per megalitre of actual water use by irrigators.

They are also known as Part B tariffs (in bulk water supply schemes) and Part D tariffs (in distribution systems).

We provide advice to the Queensland Government and the water industry on pricing and regulatory oversight.

We have developed pricing principles to provide guidance about how to recover the costs of water services from customers.  

We also published a set of criteria to assist in deciding whether to declare a private water supplier to be a monopoly water supply activity.