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How can we reduce demand for water and adjust to a future with less rainfall? How can we become more climate resilient?

6 months ago
CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

Water is critical to the health and liveability of our communities, our state's economy and the environment. The average per person water use has decreased over recent years but Perth still remains one of the highest water using cities in Australia.

How can we make Perth and other parts of Western Australia more resilient to the changing climate and ensure our communities remain liveable, sustainable and prosperous places to live.

Martin 6 months ago
Yes Perth is a higher water user both in Australia and globally. If you consider residential water use in Perth it is clear that our lifestyle, behaviours and built form play a big part. Consider cities like Berlin, London, Singapore - our residential water use is more than twice theirs. That is largely due to different climate, built form and lifestyle. For example, 40% of our scheme water is used on garden irrigation, something largely missing from higher density apartment living in the aforementioned cities. Nevertheless there is still enormous scope to reduce our water consumption that most recently was found to be on average 277klpa for each household or around 106klpa for each person for the scheme water supplied by Water Corporation. This was made clear in the WAPC policy document of 2008 Better Urban Water Management that recommended we get down to 40-60klpa for each person - still a long way to go to get there. This lower target is achievable but it will take a concerted effort. A 4-part approach can be used. Firstly, behavioural change - we all learn how to take shorter showers, adjust our irrigation controls to use less, use mulch in our gardens and so on. Secondly, improved efficiency in use - upgrade to more water efficienct shower roses, appliances, changeover sprinklers to dripline irrigation tubing and so on. Thirdly, use alternate water sources - third pipes through our neighbourhoods with recycled water for non-potable uses, home greywater systems and rainwater tanks. Fourthly, changes to the centralised infrastructure that supply our scheme water from various sources and that treat our wastewater. The latter sewer system currently discharges into the ocean around one third of the 300GL of scheme water that is supplied to Perth each year as treated wastewater. There are efforts underway at all 4 levels but these need to be ramped up considerably if we are to ensure our communities are liveable, sustainable and prosperous places to live. The alternative is BAU and building more seawater desalination plants at great cost to the people of WA.
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rachelevs90 6 months ago
I agree Martin, it's not about finding one silver bullet but about understanding all of the elements that contribute to the problem and finding multiple solutions that can build up to the whole.
The industry often talks about 'fit-for-purpose' water use but it doesn't seem to really be followed up, other than groundwater for irrigation. In house grey-water systems and rainwater tanks plumbed to the laundries and toilets can save a significant amount (I've seen numbers of 40% household use reduction presented recently) and don't rely on expensive distribution systems. Could state and local government provide some incentives to developers for providing these systems in new builds to help make it become norm? From speaking to friends not in the water industry, people are willing to make some changes but are tired of being told they can't have anything they are used to (i.e. lawn). If grey water systems were more readily available then a balance between total reduction and alternative sources could be found. I've heard that DoH is the biggest restrictive factor in the uptake of greywater systems, lot scale and development scale. Anyone have any recent experience of this being true or not?
Miles 5 months ago
Good commentary Martin. Can I offer a couple of additional observations, based on my experience as a water efficiency auditor. Much of the commentary I have seen over the years ignores the very considerable wastage of post-meter water through leaks and inappropriate irrigation controller settings: on average, 15-20% of water is wasted in facilities and homes I have inspected, mainly through leaks, and irrigation continuing through the winter months (unbeknown to the owner), irrespective of water use behaviour and fixtures. How to get on top of this? I guess price signals would help. Maybe an awareness campaign (coupled with awareness of the possible $$ significance of the wastage) accompanied by the tools to identify and fix these problems.
columbusgroup 6 months ago
Maybe the two standing by the low water in the dam have the answer ...
(see picture in the request for contributions to this topic), the 2 people
could be each wearing a hat and that will reduce their personal water loss.
And then with floats that cover the top water surface in the dam, there is less evaporation which also helps.