It comes as water authorities warn of pending shortages, and of the need for people to stop wasting water. Monthly charges are expected to persuade householders to be more restrained in their water use.
Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown said officials’ 2015 tariff advice ($33 to $71 a month) was now outdated – both the policy and “probably pricing”.
Government was working with To Tatou Vai, the Cook Islands Investment Corporation and the community to make any decisions to do with water rates.
They would then have enough data to decide monthly allocations and rates.
He said charging would commence once each month’s “free entitlement” is exceeded. Officials had previously suggested a free allocation of 200 to 400 litres a day; international guidelines suggest a minimum 200 litres per person a day.
He confirmed commercial users could expect to pay for their water.
“This is more a conservation motive rather than a money making one,” Brown told Cook Islands News.
“The less water that is wasted if it were given free, then the less we would require from the streams. This would allow more water to flow into the natural environment and the taro swamps.”
Authorities installed at least 200 water meters around the island, but many have been vandalised or fallen into disrepair, so there is little information on just how much water is being used by families.
The Government’s decision to charge domestic water users is being questioned by the opposition Democratic Party.
Leader Tina Browne said domestic users should never be charged water rates, and a promise of free water for all Rarotonga households must be kept, as well as the Pa Enua.
Commercial water charges should be discussed with the business sector, she added, after a thorough survey of usage.
“It’s like Mark Brown is trying to get into damage control because he knows how unpopular charging for water is proving to be here, and the resistance to this is gaining momentum on Rarotonga.”
To Tatou Vai, the not-for-profit agency set up to manage water supply, says it’s important to address water wasteage.
Chief executive Brent Manning said they supported government policy on giving each household a free allocation each month, before charges were imposed.
“It is important that we address the overall consumption/usage/wastage of water on Rarotonga as we have recently seen demand nearly outstrip our ability to supply.
“We will be reliant on more information before the household free allocation can be reliably established.”