If you don't pay your water bill, Lismore City Council will install water restrictors.
If you don't pay your water bill, Lismore City Council will install water restrictors. Griffith Thomas

TOUGH LOVE: Council's drastic measure to get bills paid

LISMORE City Council has been one step ahead of its neighbouring council's lead Clarence Valley Council's lead to turn off your taps if you don't pay your water bills.

Water flow restrictors are to be installed at the homes of Clarence Valley owner occupiers who, despite repeated reminders, fail to pay for their water use.

Clarence Valley Council general manager Ashley Lindsay said consumers would be given plenty of opportunity to pay, but ultimately their water flow would be reduced if they didn't take up those opportunities.

Water supply for "personal hygiene" is still available when flow restrictors are installed, but water pressure is greatly reduced.

The move was designed to prevent rate payers who do pay on time from subsidising "the three per cent who don't pay".

According finance manager at Lismore City Council, Rino Santin, water restrictors have been in operation in the Lismore LGA since 2016.

"Council's procedure on water meter restrictors is there to encourage residents to enter into an acceptable payment plan if they have unpaid water rates," Mr Santin said.

"There has been some success with this procedure and some residents have responded as a result of its implementation."

While the council did not actively advertise payment plans, "direct debit was available to all customers so they can pay in instalments," the spokesperson said.

"Lismore City Council currently has hundreds of people signed up for direct debit payments and on payment arrangements (for arrears). People can apply to organise a payment arrangement if they cannot pay by the due date (this is specified on the water rate reminder letters sent to people who have overdue accounts).

"On any account, if there is an outstanding balance after the due date then interest is calculated on a daily basis at 7.5 per cent per annum."

In the Lismore LGA, water is charged on usage so there is no one amount for all households. It is charged at $3.91 per kilolitre plus a fixed service fee of $287.20 per annum. A broad average is about 250 kilolitres per household per annum.

As with devices placed on Clarence Valley restrictors, those placed on Lismore residents, were removed when consumers paid their outstanding accounts.

"About 97 per cent of people do the right thing and pay on time, but they are effectively subsidising the three per cent who don't pay," he said.

"It is not fair on the majority. The message is pretty simple - pay on time and there will be no issue but if you don't pay after repeated requests your water pressure will be limited," Mr Lindsay said.

In the Lismore LGA, water is charged on usage so there is no one amount for all households. It is charged at $3.91 per kilolitre plus a fixed service fee of $287.20 per annum. A broad average is about 250 kilolitres per household per annum.