Understanding and Improving Water Usage in Strata

It is likely your unit or townhouse does not have an individual water meter as most apartment buildings in NSW have only one main meter. This is due to it not being a requirement for new developments until 2014.

For those buildings with only one master water meter, costs are incurred as follows:

  • Each owner receives a quarterly bill from Sydney Water which is a fixed charge for provision of services e.g. stormwater and sewerage. This bill does not include any water consumption.
  • The Owners Corporation receive a quarterly bill for all water consumed at the complex. This includes all common area taps and toilets but also water usage for all apartments including their taps, toilets, washing machines etc.

So water usage is paid by the Strata and each owner contributes to this via the levies. 

Below are examples of the different bills for your reference:


Can we retrofit meters so each owner pays for their own usage?

Retrofitting individual meters for existing buildings is often not feasible due to the location of the plumbing services and even where possible, it can be an extremely expensive exercise. 

If you would like to explore possible options for your building, we can arrange for a plumber to attend and investigate. We have had some success with single level buildings and commercial premises for example.

There is technology driven options on the market that the Owner’s Corporation can consider (e.g. independent smart metering) however they are still very expensive and significant risks involve legal, billing, debt collection and liability. So whilst the concept is impressive, the payback just doesn’t add up. 

Sudden increase in water consumption – what are the possible causes?

Burst pipes

A burst pipe that is hidden in either a wall or under the ground can waste kilolitres of water and cost owners corporations thousands of dollars. Sometimes the location is evident by dampness in the ground or even the sound of water running. However sometimes it is not as easily detected and only suspected when the next invoice shows a significant increase in water usage and costs. Strata Life reviews the water usage on all bills to detect significant increases in usage.

If a burst pipe is suspected, a plumber will be required to locate and repair the leakage. Once resolved the Owner’s Corporation can lodge a claim for a rebate on excess usage via Sydney Water 

Note – Only one claim is accepted every 5 years.

Leaking taps and toilets

Leaking taps and toilets add significant usage to an Owner’s Corporation consumption and is especially noticeable with smaller schemes. 

As the repairs are the responsibility of individual owners, we usually suggest that a letter is issued to all residents with a copy to the Property Manager and the Owner requesting that they report any leakages and arrange repairs. Another option is for the Owner’s Corporation to instruct a plumber undertake an inspection of all units and provide a report on any leaks found. 

The Owners of those units can then be advised and requested to provide evidence that the repair has been undertaken. This approach is at additional cost to the Owner’s Corporation for the plumbers time, however ensures each unit is checked.

General increased usage

In smaller complexes simply having a couple of families move into a unit which was formally occupied by a single person or couple can add to the usage and unfortunately there is little that can be done in this situation other than request residents are mindful on usage as per the tips listed below.

Ways to determine cause:

If the cause is a burst pipe or a leaking toilet there will be continuous usage and the main water meter will be ticking over even when no taps or appliances are in use. To confirm, the best approach is for a resident to check the meter at a time of day when you would expect no one to be using any taps or appliances that use water. This may be in the middle of the day when occupants are at work, or early morning/ late at night.

What can we do to reduce water usage at the property?

Tips for residents to help reduce water usage:
Buy water-efficient washing machines and dishwashers
Install water-efficient showerheads to reduce hot & cold water usage – Over 50% of usage if from showers.
Wait until you have a full load in your washing machine and dishwashers and use the economy mode. This saves water and energy.
Wash fruit and vegies in a half-filled sink instead of running water
Use a plug in the sink rather than letting the tap run continuously
Take shorter showers, ideally 4 minutes or less. Use a shower timer as a reminder
Turn the tap off while you brush your teeth
Use the half flush when flushing your toilet
Collect the water wasted while your shower water warms up and use it to water your plants
Fix leaking taps and constantly running toilets. One leaking tap can waste up to 2,000
litres a month. Arrange a plumber to replace washers as soon as the tap begin to leak.

Look out for the water rating symbol on all electronic devices and tapware that you buy.

Can we install a water tank at our Strata?

With water restrictions and increasing cost of water it is recommended that any strata or individual owners who live in strata, and have the available space, consider the installation of a water tank. 

Rainwater stored in a tank can be collected from all roof areas and used for outdoor uses such as garden watering and irrigation systems and car washing. There are a number of considerations for installing and using a rainwater tank and the Australian Government has some helpful information HERE as a starting point and this includes information on possible rebates.

There are often requirements for approval from the Owners Corporation or Committee for the installation of rain water tanks on common property or even inside individual garden spaces. Approval is dependant of your individual scheme so best to contact our office as a first step to discuss the process and assist where possible.


strata management north shore

About Strata Life – Strata Management Services

At Strata Life we strive to take the pressure of the day to day running of a strata scheme off of the shoulders of the committee members and owners. Whilst the nature of strata itself does mean that the owners/ committee are responsible for the decisions, the pressure is reduced by having a proactive manager provide guidance with a plain sense approach and quickly actioning issues as they arise.

We appreciate Committee members often have full time jobs and busy lives. Add to this that the strata scheme is often your home where Committee members do not want to have to police other residents.

Our aim is to minimise the work and time where we can, take on the role of reminding owners and residents of the by-laws so that everyone can peacefully enjoy community living.

Our team has extensive experience with properties on the Upper North Shore, Hornsby and the Northern Beaches areas, with excellent local contractors and superior local knowledge.

Helpful links

Get in touch

Whether you’re an existing client or not, our strata managers are here to help with all matters relating to strata schemes and community living.  Our office is open Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm to answer your call or, for after-hours assistance, please complete our online enquiry form and we’ll get back to you the following business day.

Telephone : 02 9456 9965
Email : contact@thestratalife.com.au
Online enquiry form »

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is general information only and not legal advice. The currency, accuracy and completeness of this article (and its contents) should be checked by obtaining independent legal advice before you take any action or otherwise rely upon its contents in any way. Strata Life disclaims any liability for negligence or otherwise in any way connected with this article.