BY JOHN MOYLE
Summer is almost here and is already shaping up to be a scorcher and the question of whether or not we will have water restrictions looms large again. Metropolitan Sydney draws its water supply from a series of dams located outside the city, with around 80 per cent coming from Warragamba.
Every day 1.4 billion litres pours out of the dams to supply Sydney, with 72 per cent going to households and 28 per cent to businesses. On Wednesday 3rd October Warragamba’s level was at 66.3 per cent and is currently decreasing by around 0.4% per cent a week, but is still a long way from its lowest levels of 32 per cent reached during the Millennium Drought that lasted from 1996 to mid-2010.
Since then Sydney has not experienced water restrictions but has instead relied on Sydney Water’s Water Rise Rules that stipulate all hoses must be fitted with a trigger nozzle and watering is restricted before 10am and after 4pm.
Buckets must be used to wash vehicles, boats and buildings but what of the water used by councils across the city which have to keep parks green and streets clean? “Average water consumption for all properties in the Inner West was steady at 490 litres per property per day compared to 623 litres per day for residential buildings across Sydney,” spokesperson Inner West Council said.
“Residential properties make up 76 per cent of the total use and showering is the largest use of water, with toilet, washing machine and garden watering also high.” Inner West Council has a number of schemes in place to help residents reduce water usage, including information on websites, workshops and a rainwater tank rebate.
Businesses in the area can register for a free sustainability workshop. The City of Sydney said that “a localised approach to water management, wastewater and storm water, recycled water options and a reduction of stormwater were all focused on water efficiency.”
“Working with Flow Systems we recently switched on one of Australia’s largest urban stormwater recycling schemes in Green Square, diverting 320 million litres of polluted stormwater from waterways every year and treating it form use in washing machines, to flush toilets and to water parks and gardens.”
The City also partners with Sydney Water on its Waterfix program that is offered to all residential strata managed buildings.
The city is a unique environment for water usage due to its many high rise office and residential buildings and the number of water intensive cooling towers to run air-conditioning systems.
And then there are those pesky leaking taps that can waste up to 2,000 litres of water a month, and with water costing around $2 per kilo-litre, that is a good reasons to replace it. Sydney Water’s Waterfix program looks at the whole of building water issues problems for no cost up front, with the payment coming out of strata savings on water bills.
The 350 unit Summit Apartment Building was a recent participant in the program and saw a savings of over $61,000 on their water bill. Andre Boerema, Sydney Water’s manager of resident products and services said “The Waterfix service is a package that charges pretty much the same rate as commercial plumbers, but we can do a very large building within 10 days, whereas a normal plumbing business would take a couple of months.”
Woollahra Council will implement a number of conservation measures in place over summer, including harvesting 260,000 litres of rainwater from tanks installed at 20 Council owned sites across the area. By harvesting stormwater the Council will significantly reduce its use of potable water used on public parks, gardens and sports fields.
The Council is currently using more than 3,500 kilo-litres on Yarranabee, Christison and Lyne Parks, largely through irrigation.
A state of the art harvesting system installed at the Rose Bay Promenade is capable of capturing 200,000 litres of treated water. Waverley Council’s executive manager, Sustainable Waverley, Sam McGuiness said that “The Council itself is a major user of water.”
“We use water in numerous sites such as childcare centres, our office building, the library, but the main users are at Bondi Park, Bronte Park and Waverley Park, and at all three sites we have constructed water harvesting systems so that we can use water from non-potable systems.”
At Bondi the main storm water drain is at South Bondi and the water is captured just near the skate park which is situated on top of a large underground tank that captures the water before ti flows into the ocean.
“We’ve recently completed the Waverley Park water upgrade and have constructed large tanks so that we can reduce our use of water from Warragamba Dam,” Mr McGuiness said. A water harvesting system installed at Tamarama is used to fill the Council’s one water truck.
These are actions taken by four councils but by far biggest changes in water usage comes down to individual households who are the largest water consumers across Sydney.
Replacing old hardware and cisterns with WELS (water efficient labelling) itms is a good start.