Small-scale water networks

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General information

Small-scale water networks (also known as minor and intermediate retailers) are councils and private businesses that provide water and sewerage services to 50,000 or fewer customers. Collectively, 67 retailers licensed under the Water Industry Act 2012 (WI Act) provide drinking water services to approximately 5,600 customers and sewerage services, and community wastewater management systems (CWMS), to approximately 99,200 customers.

The Commission regulates the customer service and pricing aspects of small-scale water networks' operations because these retailers generally hold a monopoly provider position in the market. Small-scale water networks must comply with a regulatory determination, consumer protection measures and reporting requirements set by the Commission (under statutory powers). The overall regime is summarised as:

  • Consumer protection measures – the water retail code for minor and intermediate retailers sets out the behavioural standards and minimum requirements to be complied with by small-scale networks when engaging with their customers.
  • Water and sewerage services prices – small-scale water networks must comply with pricing principles set by the Commission when developing their prices.
  • Performance assessment – reporting guidelines set out the Commission’s performance monitoring framework.

To provide transparency, the Commission publishes annual regulatory performance reports on the performance of small-scale water networks. The focus of the report is on residential retail services, and it informs customers about the quality and reliability of the services they receive at an aggregate level. 

The Commission also monitors and reports on small-scale water networks' compliance with regulatory requirements takes enforcement action in instances of non-compliance, if necessary.

Performance outcomes

Performance summary for 2021-22

There are 70 small-scale networks licensed under the Water Industry Act 2012. These provided drinking and non-drinking water services to 10,498 connections, and sewerage services and Community Wastewater Management Systems (CWMS) to 105,133 connections in 2021-22.

In 2021-22, 12 licensees reported 43 material service issues with reported impacts ranging from no customers being affected to the entire customer base being affected. Some reported issues were identified as not material and no systemic issues have been identified. The Commission will continue to work with licensees to ensure accurate and timely reporting of material service issues.

Licensees reported that, as at 30 June 2022, a total of 868 customers were participating in financial hardship programs, 1,917 customers were on flexible payment arrangements and one residential customer was registered as a life support customer.

Compliance summary for 2021-22

In 2021-22, no material non-compliances reported. All the non-compliances reported were assessed as low risk or administrative in nature and have minimal impact on customers. The Commission is contacting all licensees that reported a non-compliance or were assessed as having a non-compliance with regulatory requirements.

Please refer to the Bulletin no 4 – Reporting requirements for further information on the ongoing monitoring and reporting obligations.

Historical performance outcomes


Compliance reviews

While the Commission assesses water entities performance against annual service standards and reliability standards each year, events may occur during the year that warrant special ad hoc reporting – referred to as Significant Performance Events.

The Commission considers the following criteria in determining whether a Significant Performance Event has occurred:

  • a significant number of customers are affected for a lengthy duration, or there is reason to believe that a significant number of customers may have been affected for a lengthy duration.
  • the event is likely to seriously impact on the licensed entity’s ability to meet one of more of its annual service standard(s) or reliability target(s).
  • the Commission needs to undertake a review to be confident that the licensed entity has complied with its obligations under the relevant industry Code(s).
  • there is strong stakeholder interest, or there is anticipated to be strong stakeholder interest.

The criteria recognise that a balance needs to be struck between reporting on every event and the resources it entails, and meeting stakeholder expectations on the provision of information in such situations.

The Commission has published the following significant event report, in respect of the performance of small-scale water networks (also known minor and intermediate water retailers).