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What changes do we need to make to improve the way we manage and make use of water in urban communities?

12 months ago
CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

We invite you to share your thoughts of how we can best manage and make use of water in Western Australia.

What changes do we need to make to improve the way we manage and make use of water in urban communities?

  • How can we work better in partnership to develop innovative water solutions?

  • Can you think of new ways of doing business that can foster innovative solutions to water problems?

  • What do you see as being barriers and challenges to innovation in the water sector?

Elements to consider when planning for sustainable water, land and infrastructure developments include the environment, wellbeing of the community, economics and design.

The Department of Water has been involved in developing a vision for Perth as a water sensitive city, with the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities.

Some examples of sustainable urban development in Western Australia are:


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rebcas 10 months ago
One last question as consumer, if we manage to use LESS water, is there anything in place to stop Water Corp/ the provider bumping the unit price up to ensure they continue to make the same revenue? From a business perspective, I *assume* they would have to do this, but it’s hardly encouraging for the end user to better manage their own consumption.
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Sharon 10 months ago
Thanks for the comment. There sure is something in place to ensure the Water Corporation doesn't bump up prices unnecessarily. The Government set the Water Corporation's price and regulate its rate of return. The Economic Regulation Authority is the independent adviser of water pricing for the Government.
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sauce 9 months ago
rates... from an external view - one that hits the back pocket. An increase in one utility gives license to raise all utility rates. Any auditing body can approve a sound business case, the attributes of governance is at question.
Stewart 10 months ago
It would be great to see a whole of agency/government commitment to developing fit-for-purpose alternative water supplies at all scales from residential to municipal and commercial. It would need political will, financial incentives (particularly scope for meaningful savings on water and sewerage bills), and a streamlining of the rules and regulations so it is attractive to developers. The uptake of rooftop PV is a great example of how this model can work. Of course it will have financial and technical implications for the water utilities! A serious fund to support innovative water recycling, with R&D, would be another good start. California has a great example of this: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/grants_loans/water_recycling/
sauce 10 months ago
I see this as a community culture topic, like all education it starts at a young age. My young children have had brief lessons in primary school on being water smart, but a reinforced educational program into the senior schools will reinforce and change culture. Education is certainly doing a good with other community reinforcing topics. Hopefully the cultural change will keep abreast with technology and governance improvements.
rebcas 10 months ago
To better manage water in urban communities, I believe there needs to be a separation between ‘water for drinking’ and ‘water for other uses’ in homes. This would open up possibilities to reduce waste (and better use what we have rather than continuing to exploit aquafers, ground bores etc) and allow more opportunity for private industry to step up and develop some of the solutions/ appropriate products.

For instance, what about innovative water solutions around not wasting perfectly good drinking water in our toilets? Between business and private residents in this state, how much are we (literally) flushing away every day? Why can’t grey water be used? Particularly in new areas being developed as it’s cheaper to build it in compared to retrofitting.

...I’ve heard that the toilet is seen as an emergency water source (via the top flush tank part), but surely there is an alternative solution by now (if not, how’s that for a need for innovation!). Can this small tank-like capacity be fitted to the kitchen water instead?

Similarly, we should not be watering any lawns and gardens, or washing cars with perfectly good drinking water! Maybe outside water points or taps can be recycled water from storm/leach water tanks, or the laundry?

This thinking could extend to water for wash purposes too, such as dishes, cars, pets and some clothes. Again, I’m told it’s a hazard for any water source in the home to not be drinkable (i.e. recycled/grey water, rain-captured or unfiltered). However, children in various rural areas grow up knowing that their drinking water is separate from their kitchen tap water, or comes from a separate faucet. I’m sure urban based communities can adapt too.

So then in terms of barriers, how about partnerships working toward cutting some of the red tape when it comes to grey water recycling and rain water catchment/use for urban homes in general? I think more people would do the 'right thing' personally/themselves, if it wasn't such a battle to get the necessary permissions and approvals via council etc. It’s also very costly (!!!) and for the average family trying to build a new home (usually for a package less than $350,000) it’s just not an option.

I also expect if it wasn’t so difficult and there was more demand for these types of systems, the market might expand and become more competitive, bringing prices down?
Martin 10 months ago
Better urban water management can occur in 3 ways: improving our water use behaviours at home and work; installing more efficient water appliances and fixtures; and thirdly implementing new types of urban water systems. Consider an example from each: The average Perth shower time is 7 minutes, and a typical shower rose these days is 7 to 9 litres/minute. Imagine how much water could be saved if all 1.8 million people in Perth shaved 2 minutes off their shower each day. Say thats 1 million people then thats 14ML/day or 5GLpa which is the size of a small seawater desalination plant (the existing SWRO plants are 50GLpa and cost $1 billion each). And there are many other water saving behaviours. As for the second approach, the Water Corporation has run a number of successful appliance upgrade programs and certainly more like these can be run. As for the third approach, the White Gum Valley groundwater third pipe scheme for irrigation water is a very good idea. The same can be done at a home and neighbourhood scale for recycled greywater and wastewater schemes.

Successful partnerships to develop innovative water solutions like the above are often seen where you have government, industry and university research centres working together. So much more can be done in this space and we see many good examples interstate and overseas. For example, greywater recycling with heat recovery so you get water recycling for the gardens and heat recovery for the hot water system. This is practiced in Berlin, Germany.

An example of a new way of doing business to foster innovative solutions is where you have an alternate water service provider company being allowed to set up and operate small urban water recycling schemes. This may not be viable for a large government enterprise such as the Water Corporation, but if government provides encouragement and support in licensing then it can be ideal for small companies that can get industrial and commercial customers for their recycling wastewater that could be supplied form something like 'sewer mining'.

Barriers and challenges to innovation include red tape that requires a lot of planning, design, documentation and over-engineered solutions for projects such as water recycling or water efficiency strategies. There is a big difference between smart solutions (that are cost-effective) and over-engineered solutions (that end up being too expensive to build). The latter may come about from fear and conservatism rather than being smart.
Greg Ryan 11 months ago
Target the low hanging fruit like direct use of recycled water for POS irrigation in the Northern corridor.
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Peter Erskine 10 months ago
Sounds like an excellent idea but what recycled water source do you have in mind?
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Greg Ryan 10 months ago
Well there is a large WWTP strategically positioned in the middle of Alkimos! I understand that there are discussions ongoing between Water Corp and some Developers in the NW corridor but would be good to have some stronger leadership and direction coming from government..
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Peter Erskine 10 months ago
I seem to recall it being mentioned that the costs of treating the water to an acceptable standard for irrigation was not cost effective. This could of course change if the bore licensing becomes more restrictive with respect to the quantity local governments are allocated.
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Greg Ryan 10 months ago
I don't think there was much transparency around what the actual "costs" were. But you are right it is hard to mount a business case when there isn't a cost driver.
uncadul 11 months ago
I would like to see more attention given to urban vegetation: block sizes are decreasing, whilst houses are getting bigger. New developments in my area basically have no trees at all, resulting in a hot and barren streetscape. I have seen a lot of mature trees chopped down without being replaced. More native planting, retention of mature trees, and dedicated green spaces will increase amenity, thermal comfort and aesthetics whilst also reducing water use.
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Greg Ryan 10 months ago
Tree canopy targets are a good idea. LandCorp's White Gum Valley urban infill project has set a target to replace the equivalent amount of Tree Canopy remove by the development in Landscaping and Street trees at maturity.
KatieB 11 months ago
It is important to address the food-energy-water nexus through collaboration between stakeholders (community, industry and government) to ensure that everyone is working towards sustainable solutions for prosperous communities, economies and environments. This needs to happen at the state, regional and local level. We also need to internalize costs and look at how we price and value water resources to encourage efficiency.
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columbusgroup 11 months ago
To make it work, the food-energy-water nexus, then the money element needs to be added to the nexus.
columbusgroup 11 months ago
There are award winning technology spinoffs from the mining and other sectors that can immediately improve the aquifer recharge / water harvesting cycles that are supported with distributed geothermal energy input to make it all work. Anyone want to know more?
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Your Say 11 months ago
Yes, keen to know more
ashwinknayak 11 months ago
Sounds interesting. What additional information have you got?
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columbusgroup 11 months ago
Send me an email columbusgroup@iinet.net.au Regards Don
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columbusgroup 11 months ago
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