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Melbourne + water « Previous | |Next »
September 4, 2008

An interesting article on Melbourne's water supply and ensuring the city does not run of water in The Age by Royce Millar. Like Adelaide, a punishing decade of drought, culminating with record low rainfalls for winter and spring Melbourne is faced with a scenario of running out of water. With climate change the situation was possibly permanent.

The response by the Bracks/Brumby Government was turn away from the policy of engineering tempered by the logic of economics and the science of the ecologist to big engineering solutions:

plants and pipes that would delivered water fast, albeit at big financial and environmental costs: the energy-intensive, $3.1 billion desalination plant at Wonthaggi and a $1 billion north-south pipeline to link Melbourne to the river network north of the Great Divide....With desalination plants and other water initiatives coming in, the rainwater tank has been singled out as something that may not be warranted in the future

Millar says that the upward trend in water use in Melbourne and the anti-tank campaign have fuelled concern that Victoria is hitching itself to a water future more in keeping with 19th-century rather than 21st-century thinking; that is, a centralised system under which water is pumped from outside the city to consumers with little idea or interest in where it came from, or where it will end up. An increasing population and climate change means more desalinisation plants.

The Australian Conservation Foundation's sustainable cities campaigner, Kate Noble, says on current evidence Victoria's politicians are unlikely to make the long-term commitment necessary to avoid a string of additional desal plants.

In 2050, we will be in the odd situation (much like today) where we put huge amounts of public funding into desalination plants so we can use drinking water to flush our toilets, water the lawn and cool our power stations, while we watch stormwater equivalent to our annual metropolitan water use flow straight down the drain.We will have more empty dams in 2050 than we have now, because at some point one of the governments of the day had the bright idea that another dam would save us from climate change.

What is pushed aside in the big engineering approach that has dominated water policy is the other more sustainable options (e.g. rainwater tanks properly plumbed into the house, storm water recycling, indirect potable water, etc This alternative conception sees Melbourne movingto a more decentralised approach to water management and that the city will indeed have become a water catchment with tanks recycling, sewer mining and stormwater harvesting part of our daily lives.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:28 AM | | Comments (3)


Yes, unimaginative state governments looking for a cheap headline and a few backroom deals with "mates" in the finance and constructon industry, will always treat the symptoms ( the media will always "help" the public, pointing to these ) rather than the disease.

The backroom deals angle must be the only way to make sense of stupid Victorian water management decisions.

Qld has been horrible irresponsible when it comes to managing natural waterways, but with the real threat of running out of water altogether a couple of years ago this state got its act together pretty quickly.

Water tanks had been banned for years because of the mozzie problem up here until that was reversed. Now suppliers have trouble keeping up with demand. People are understanding that dew running off the roof is a surprising amount of water. Grey water was commonly used to water gardens until it was deemed a health risk, but now you can plumb the washing machine's waste into a tank and have colour coded plumbing so you can use it for outdoor use and toilet flushing. As a consequence attitudes to water consumption have changed, which also helps.

Doesn't the Victorian govt trust people?

Yes the Victorian Government is really on the nose when it comes to water and sustainability.

I live totally sustainably (electricity, water,sewerage,power etc) 60 km from Melbourne, do not buy any water from anyone - and guess what? I have just received a bill from Melbourne Water. Not only does the city of Melbourne waste water - but those of us who do live sustainably have to pay for it!!!