News | 25th Feb, 2011

Minister turns off tap on Target 155

Friday, 25 February 2011
Peter Ker, The Age

Victorians will no longer live with personal water consumption targets, with the new Coalition government to dump the high-profile ''Target 155'' policy.

More than two years after Victorians were asked to limit their consumption to 155 litres each day, new Water Minister Peter Walsh said the strategy had been little more than a ''political slogan'' and would be discontinued.

Moves are under way to wipe Target 155 references from household water bills, while Mr Walsh confirmed that billboards, websites and other paraphernalia would also go.
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Water authorities spent close to $9 million last financial year on promotional campaigns to influence water consumption in Melbourne, of which Target 155 was the most prominent.

Mr Walsh said the target had not played a major role in reducing water consumption.

''I think in general Melburnians did a great job with the water restrictions that were in place, and I don't think they needed the political spin of the Target 155 campaign to know that they needed to be sensible with water use,'' he said.

Mr Walsh said he didn't have an opinion on how much water people should use each day, but said he was confident the change would not cause consumption to soar.

''It will go up to a degree, but I don't think it will go back up to the per capita consumption that was there in the 1990s. People have changed, the make-up of their gardens has changed and they've got water-efficient appliances in their houses now,'' he said. ''People understand they need to be careful with water use.''

Mr Walsh said the change was part of the Baillieu government's promise to operate ''without all the spin and political hype'' of the previous Labor government.

The move will be welcomed internally by Melbourne's water retailers – Yarra Valley Water, City West Water and South East Water – who have privately campaigned for the policy to be axed or eased for close to a year.

The retailers make more money when water consumption rises, and The Age understands they urged the former Labor government to switch to ''Target 160'' last year when Melbourne shifted from harsh stage 3a restrictions to the easier stage 3 restrictions.

Opposition water spokesman John Lenders said Target 155 was inexpensive and had been ''the most effective water- saving campaign in Victoria's history''.

''The fact is Target 155 worked, and we are proud of all Victorians' efforts in saving billions of litres under the program,'' he said. ''By calling it a political stunt demeans the community's collective effort in saving water during the worst drought in Victoria's history.''

Environment Victoria has long urged people to go beyond Target 155 and cut consumption to 100 litres each day, and chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said she believed Target 155 had been a success.

Targets were good, she said, as they helped people understand how much they should be using, and she encouraged the Baillieu government to continue with some form of water efficiency campaign.

The axing of Target 155 comes just days before water restrictions are totally removed for Geelong residents next Tuesday. The removal of stage 1 restrictions caps a remarkable turnaround for Geelong's water supplies, with the city on harsh stage 4 restrictions just 11 months ago.

More resources

How to use less than 100 litres a day

Call for Target 100 to protect rivers and reservoirs and lock in water savings for good