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Water Strategy Scorecard

TEC Director Mr Jeff Angel said, "While the strategy is a welcome improvement in Sydney's urban water management it still falls well short of a sustainable water strategy".

The report gives the Government high marks for demand management with requirements that business, Councils and Government agencies develop water conservation plans and that all properties must be certified as water efficient prior to sale likely to ensure major improvements in water efficiency.

The government has scored poorly, however, in the areas of sustainable raw water supplies, effluent reuse and environmental flows for stressed rivers.

"Deep pumping from dams and transfers from the Shoalhaven River do not provide a long term solution as they still rely on rainfall in a drying climate to maintain supplies. Development of effluent reuse for non drinking water purposes in new urban release areas is a step forward, however, it must be extended across the existing city to take pressure off our precious drinking water supplies", Mr Angel said.

TEC also attacked the announcement of a $4million feasibility study of desalination.

"Desalination is an unsustainable approach that will require massive amounts of electricity and cause an unacceptable increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This money would be better spent on developing sustainable options such as effluent reuse", Mr Angel said.
A major shortcoming of the strategy is the failure to provide a proper environmental flow regime for the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system.

"It is unclear how effective the environmental flow package will be as availability of flows will depend on dam levels. The failure to set limit on extractions from dams will impair ability to provide flows. In addition no commitment has been given to flows from Warragamba, where the bulk will need to come from", Mr Angel said.

During the week of 17 October the Carr Government released its Metro Water Strategy, arguably the best attempt at urban water policy for 30 years - however it still falls short of a sustainable water strategy.


Deep pumping from dams and pumping from Shoalhaven River won't provide a long term solution to water shortage. They depend on rainfall and simply feed unsustainable demand rather than seeking to change wasteful water use practices. Pumping from the Shoalhaven River transfers environmental impact from Sydney to the Shoalhaven basin.

While Demand Management and recycling in new areas will help curb growing consumption, the announcements fail to place a sustainable limit on extractions from dams. This will inhibit ability to provide environmental flows and avoids a strong signal to switch to sustainable supplies such as recycling in existing areas. Sustainable yield from present supplies is 500 Gigalitres (GL) per year, allowing for environmental flows.

Tapping groundwater reserves may have adverse impacts on sensitive groundwater dependent ecosystems. Resource also prone to be depleted faster than infiltration can recharge it.

Desalination is expensive and unsustainable. It will require massive electricity consumption with unacceptable greenhouse gas emissions. Seawater is purified, then once again pumped for single use. Problems also arise with disposal of highly concentrated brine which is a by-product of the desalination process.

Announcement of environmental flows package is welcome, however, it is unclear how effective this will be as availability of flows will depend on dam levels. No decision on flows from Warragamba, where the bulk of the flows will need to come from. Failure to set limit on extractions from dams will impair ability to provide flows.

Effluent recycling for new urban release areas is a major step forward. Failure to commit to recycling for developed areas is a major blow, however, as recycling could massively ease pressure on drinking water supplies and provide a more sustainable source of water, significantly boosting drought security.

Government's strategy will simply entrench Sydney Water's monopoly despite the fact that they have abjectly failed to develop reuse.

Permanent water restrictions (as adopted by Melbourne) and changes to security of supply criteria should be announced to put an end to wasteful consumption.
Insufficient attention given to new technologies such as stormwater recycling and decentralized systems as a way to take pressure off current supplies.

Water conservation plans for businesses, councils and government agencies a good step toward improving water efficiency. Success will depend on support from pricing mechanisms to reward good performance and penalise those who resist reform. Step pricing, as proposed for residential customers, should be extended to the commercial and industrial sectors to provide incentives to be more efficient and switch to sustainable options such as effluent reuse.

Residential retrofit and requirements that properties must be certified as water efficient prior to sale will ensure major improvement in performance of existing building stock. Extension of rainwater tank subsidy to 2008 a valuable step toward easing pressure on drinking water supplies.

Water efficiency labeling of household appliances valuable in allowing consumers to identify and choose products based on water efficiency.

Wholesale step pricing should be used to remove perverse incentive for Sydney Water to sell more water. In 2002 IPART estimated that by failing to meet demand management targets Sydney Water would receive additional revenue of between $35M and $72M. Wholesale step pricing would penalise Sydney Water if they purchase more water from the Sydney Catchment Authority than allowed by demand management targets. This would provide a strong incentive to invest in demand management and effluent reuse.