THE Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW (LGSA) has expressed deep concerns an Infrastructure NSW recommendation to merge 105 utilities into 30 regional authorities will threaten council-owned and operated water and sewerage utilities.
Shires Association of NSW president Ray Donald said the LGSA and other member councils were extremely concerned about the suggestion to amalgamate more than 100 local government water and sewerage utilities.
"The recommendation fails to mention of how they should be managed, or which sphere of government should be responsible for their operation," Cr Donald said.
"For years councils have been supplying quality water and sewerage services to nearly two million people in communities across regional NSW.
"We call on the state government to confirm whether local utilities will remain in local government hands.
"Following the last review into water and sewerage services in NSW in 2008, the state government, in conjunction with local government, implemented water-quality frameworks that met the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2004)."
Cr Donald said that during 2010/11, 99 per cent of the 21,100 water samples from local water utilities that were tested for E. coli complied with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2004).
"This highlights the good progress of councils in meeting their compliance requirements," he said.
"Local water utilities are fast approaching best-practice standards set by the NSW Office of Water, and many already have frameworks in place addressing compliance, skills and training, resource sharing and alliances."
Local Government Association of NSW president Keith Rhoades said a report by the NSW Office of Water from 2012/11 showed 91 per cent of utilities had sound strategic business and financial plans, helping to ensure their long-term sustainability.
"The report also highlights how 98 per cent of the local utilities were achieving full cost recovery for water supply and 96 per cent for sewerage. Councils have shown that maintaining utility functions within their operations, assisted by resource sharing and regional co- operation, is the best option for the future delivery of these important services," he said.
Cr Rhoades said considering the different topography of NSW as a state and the inconsistent weather patterns, a "one-hat-fits-all approach" was not the solution to water and sewerage management.
"While the vast majority of local water and sewerage service providers are operating at full cost recovery, the LGSA calls on the NSW government to continue providing capital funding, particularly for new infrastructure necessary thanks to the impacts of climate change on water supplies," he said.