With summer fast approaching and water storages at record lows, Environment Victoria today released a report that shows how Melbourne can tackle its urgent water problems, while helping its struggling rivers and avoiding the need for the economically and environmentally risky desalination plant and Sugarloaf pipeline.
Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO Environment Victoria, said the report, Water Security, Healthy Rivers: Environment Victoria’s Vision for Melbourne, outlined 10 key actions that could turn Melbourne into a ‘water sensitive city’ that lived within its means.
“The good news is this report shows how Melbourne can have a secure water supply and healthy rivers. But it’s going to take a whole-hearted effort to improve water efficiency and accelerate rainwater harvesting and water recycling,” she said.
“The state government’s recent announcement of water use targets of 155 litres per person per day is a good start. However, this report shows that if the government is serious about helping householders become more water efficient, there are simple ways to do it: boost incentives, strengthen regulation and act now.
“It’s proven that the average household can save 122,000 litres of water a year just by installing simple measures such as water-saving shower heads and dual-flush toilets. A comprehensive overhaul program would help protect all Victorians from rising prices, while saving water and creating ‘green collar’ jobs.
“There are even bigger gains to be made with new building developments. Leading developers are striving for a 75 per cent reduction on mains water use and the construction industry has indicated they would welcome the government mandating higher water efficiency standards for new developments.”
Ms O’Shanassy said the Victorian Government also needed to immediately broaden the scope of its investigation into the potential use of the more than 115 billion litres of high quality recycled water which is due to be produced annually by the Eastern Treatment Plant from 2012.
“For far less money and energy than it takes to treat seawater, purified recycled water could be made as clean and safe as our current supply sources and used to replenish our depleted reservoirs. It is time for the Brumby Government to lift the policy ban and allow Melbournians to make an informed decision about how best to use this high quality water resource,” she said.
“The Brumby Government promotes the desalination plant and pipeline as their ‘silver bullet’ solution to Melbourne’s water woes. But by massively oversupplying in the short term, these projects will remove any incentive to implement longer term, sustainable options such as locking in water efficiency into our buildings and utilising important resources like stormwater and recycled water,” she said.
Professor Barry Hart, Independent Chair of the Yarra Coordinating Committee, endorsed the report and said it showed how we could replenish our water stores whilst protecting and restoring our highly valuable rivers.
“A healthy river means a healthy water supply. For Melbourne this is particularly important as up to 70 per cent of its water comes from the Yarra’s upper reaches. Yet the government continues to extract water from its very low current flow levels. If the government implemented the actions outlined in this report, we could have a more sustainable and secure water supply and a healthier river,” he said.