Sunday, December 07, 2008

Water for Western Sydney

An article from the Hawkesbury Gazette this week turned my focus back to Western Sydney for a bit. It reported on a community forum hosted by the University of Western Sydney on the topic of ‘Water for Western Sydney’.

The article, copy-and-pasted below, speaks for itself. It is good to see a range of water recycling ideas being discussed and a positive attitude for improved water management.

Water debate highlights importance of recycling

By Amanda Perry
The Hawkesbury Gazette

Water recycling was the hot topic at Saturday's community forum 'Water for Western Sydney - Who Will Miss Out?'

The forum, which was held at the University of Western Sydney's Hawkesbury campus, featured presentations by State and Federal agencies and councils, as well as a lively hypothetical debate chaired by ABC TV's Ticky Fullerton.

Hawkesbury Mayor Bart Bassett addressed the forum on behalf of Hawkesbury City Council, highlighting both the pros and cons of water recycling.

"I have long been a public advocate of more water recycling wherever feasible and practical," Mayor Bassett said.

"Promoting water recycling can help free us from the reliance on rainfall for a large percentage of our water needs.

"I am concerned, however, that we have not been fully consulted about our views regarding the use of recycled effluent as drinking water.

"It seems the Government has assumed that the idea would be unpalatable without seeking the opinions of the public."

Mayor Bassett said once freshwater environmental flows from Warragamba Dam were replaced by treated effluent through newly-constructed treatment plants, residents would "by default be consuming a more concentrated level of recycled water".

"I'm not sure this fact has been fully explained in the government's plans to promote water recycling," he said.

"Given that, the success of the household water recycling scheme at Rouse Hill has paved the way for similar schemes for future large scale housing developments and water recycling will be the way of our future."

Mayor Bassett said he would like to see more recycled water used for irrigation in both commercial and household applications.

The hypothetical with Ms Fullerton also put the focus on water recycling, including the use of recycled stormwater and effluent.

It leapt forward to 2010 and proposed that Sydney faced a severe water shortage, with level four water restrictions in place and less than three years supply left in our dams.

Panel member Les Sheather, a former Hawkesbury councillor, was in support of using recycled stormwater but said recycled effluent would be better.

"The outcome is better for the whole community," he said.

"Storm water is insecure, when it doesn't rain we're back to the situation a few years ago with the drought.

"With recycled effluent, it's permanent, there's a guarantee of supply.".

The hypothetical also asked panel members to consider what we should do when we do have good rainfall and excess of water.

Following the hypothetical audience members had the chance to ask questions of the panel.

Former councillor Ted Books raised the question of whether we should build more dams.

Ted Gardner, a professor from the Queensland University of Technology, said the general consensus among society was we shouldn't because of the environmental impacts, and said the effects of climate change had made dam storage unreliable.

One audience member asked those on the panel to say whether they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Western Sydney's water supply and why.

Hawkesbury Councillor Paul Rasmussen was one of those who said he was optimistic.

"Because I believe we don't have a water supply problem, we have a management problem," he said.

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