Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Inquiry into Melbourne's Future Water Supply #3

Dead penguin on the Bass Coast
at the pre-construction construction site of the desal plant.
Thanks to Maurice for the photo.

Call to recycle all water and ban outfalls

Peter Ker, The Age, Melbourne,June 3, 2009

A dramatic  increase in water recycling has been recommended for Melbourne, following an 18-month investigation by a Labor-dominated parliamentary committee.

As pressure mounts on the State Government to improve its record on water recycling, the report recommended that 100 per cent of Melbourne's treated water be put to productive use.

The committee is chaired by former Bracks Government minister John Pandazopoulos. Its report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, recommends:

■Wider use of "water offset" schemes, such as the one that allowed Flemington Racecourse to use extra water because it paid for water savings to be achieved at a third-party business.

■Promised environmental flows be delivered to rivers such as the Yarra "as a matter of priority".

■Contracts for the Wonthaggi desalination plant be designed to allow for water production volumes to vary each year, ensuring excess water is not purchased in wet years.

■The Auditor-General should review the effectiveness of water restrictions.

■Installation of water-saving devices such as shower heads and dual-flush toilets should be mandatory every time a property is sold or leased.

The report highlighted that the volume of stormwater running off central Melbourne each year was more than the city's annual consumption, yet policy decisions and planning rules remained the major barrier to increased adoption of rainwater tanks.

The calls for Melbourne to reuse 100 per cent of its treated waste water would require massive change, given the city currently recycles closer to 30 per cent.

The committee said the Government should set tough interim targets, aiming to reuse 50 per cent of Melbourne's water by 2012, and 70 per cent by 2015.

Mr Pandazopoulos said the drinking of recycled water was not needed for Melbourne in the short term, but increased use should occur in the garden and inside the home for toilet flushing and the like.

Melbourne recycles a greater volume of waste water than any Australian city, but still pumps the bulk of its treated water out to sea at controversial outfalls such as Gunnamatta. Mr Pandazopoulos said the committee believed such outfalls should be prohibited. "We should be ending, in effect, outfalls to waterways and oceans like the Gunnamatta outfall, and Government should be committing to finding users for that water that will be recycled," he said.

Government spokeswoman Sofia Dedes said the Government would respond to the recommendations "in coming months".

Opposition spokeswoman Louise Asher said Labor had taken $3.2 billion from water authorities since coming to power a decade ago, yet the completion of major water projects was still years away.

KEY POINTS

■Report says Melbourne should dramatically increase use of treated waste water.

Policy and planning rules found to be a major barrier to use of rainwater tanks.

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