Make big users pay for water Bernard Lane, Environment writer March 01, 2005
LIKE farmers on the Murray River, every Australian household will have to buy extra water if it uses more than its quota.
This is the bold vision of the Barton Group, an environment industry peak body soon to release a report urging radical change in water policy.
Chairman Paul Perkins said the solution to the water crisis lay in a seamless national water market, bringing city and country together.
"The simplest way is to say every domestic residence has the entitlement to, say, 300 kilolitres (per year) and if they use more they have to buy more in the market and if they use less they get a credit," said Professor Perkins, an Australian National University water expert and former chief executive of Canberra's water and energy utility.
"There is a willingness to pay (more for water) in the community, provided that people are confident government can deliver quality and quantity fairly."
For fair and efficient water sharing, the new market would have to be easy to use. But he said a national water market could be 10 years away.
Permanent water restrictions in big cities could offer a "breathing space" as Australians began to understand and debate the massive changes demanded by the federal Government's national water initiative.
Professor Perkins said a host of obstacles - not the obstacles most would imagine - blocked the way to a true national water market. "(Water efficient) technology is not a problem. There is no shortage of money (from investors) either," he said.
"Our problem is not even supply. By comparison with other countries we have plenty."
The true obstacle was the maze of rules and systems governing water. These were convoluted, antiquated or incomplete and were applied by a host of government agencies, Professor Perkins said.
"The first conclusion we came to is we don't have a shortage of water in the nation, we have a problem of management of water," he said.
"Our system of sharing the available resource is very poor."
Before any trading in a national water market, there had to be new systems for measuring all sources of available water and for allowing access by households and business, he said.
"There is no measurement of the water balance in the Sydney catchment so how can you have a system for valuing water and trading it?" he said.
Neglected sources such as stormwater and groundwater typically stood outside the mainstream water system.
"If we have a trading system and leave stormwater and greywater out, we'll have a God-awful mess," he said.
He said these and other issues for reform needed urgent debate and hard work if they were to rise above rhetoric.
"The national water initiative is probably the most profound policy initiative in a lifetime but you wouldn't think so because it's not getting the attention it should be," he said.
There definately has to be some system happening here in the Sydney region. Even with water restrictions enforced my family still find many of our neighbours hosing off the cement after mowing or to remove the dog poo! I have found to my horror my own Mother sneaking in hosing. The majority of community still don't take the water shortage seriously. There should be a user pay's for more system. Otherwise people never value anything, taking this prescious commodity for granted. We have invested in two tanks, not large but enough to water our vegie patch, we use our bath water and the final rinse of washing machine! It takes more time but it eases my heart and mind that every little bit I do makes a difference!
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I looked into greywater recycling a while back, but it got a bit complicated. I would like to get some tanks for catching roof runoff. Can you recommend a brand or give any other advice?
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Maureen I think the idea presented is to develop a national system, or at least a watershed based system, rather than lots of independent local government systems. For example, households could be paying 100 times more for water than agriculture. If this is the case then it makes sense for the agricultural use to be cut back rather than the domestic use. This will only be done if all groups drawing water from the same natural system (river basin) pay the same price for the water.
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re; Can you recommend a brand or give any other advice? March 07, 2005 3:24 AM
We currently rent our house, so for the moment or should I say for the past year or more, I lug all my greywater in buckets. It is time consuming and can be back breaking. I agree, it can be complicated, putting in a greywater system. Our back yard slopes up, so our back vegie garden would need a pump. It can get expensive. As for our tanks, we have two small easily movable ones that we could take with us if we needed to move. Our landlord is a friend and was happy for us to change the drainpipes to run in to our tanks. You would need to consider your water usage, would it be just for a garden/drinking/washing etc. What about rainfall in your area. We get large amounts of rain at one time but it might not rain again for a while. Our tanks fill up quick, probably twice over when it rains. SO a bigger tank would have been better, as we just scrape in the last drops before it rains again. It would be good to look at that, esp if you have your own home. We would have got something bigger. They lay of your land. Will you use a pump or carry the water by hand. Lot's to consider.
There is a bit of a slope but the house is at the top end so I should be able to gravity feed most of the yard. I don't need it to always be available as I am currently using the town water - I just want to cut back a bit.
QUEENSLAND water consumers will be slugged an extra $30 million annually as part of a state government push to limit water demand.
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie today unveiled a five-year water plan he said would influence ratepayers to treat water like "liquid gold" by "charging the sort of price that makes people value the resource".
Under the "Water Plan 2005-2010", householders will face a modest increase but irrigators will be charged for water for the first time to help offset the $68 million a year spent by the Government on water planning and administration costs.
While urban, residential and business users already paid the full cost of supplying water, irrigators had only paid the basic costs of water operation and supply for the past five years, Mr Beattie said.
"People with licences for rural stock and domestic will be charged a $100 annual charge with discount for pensioners," Mr Beattie said.
Under the seven-point plan, urban and commercial water users will pay 1.5c a kilolitre (1000 litres), mining and petroleum users 1c and irrigators and others 0.4c.
Price rises would start from January next year with the exception of irrigators, who would be subjected to the charges three months later.
However, Mr Beattie said the average increase on an annual urban ratepayers' water bill would be only $4 a year.
He conceded pricing increases alone would not totally relieve pressure on water demand but combined with the plan's six other points would prove effective.
The plan also aims to adopt water conservation measures such as re-using and recycling water, drought management practice, protecting river catchments and the environment and education campaigns.
"About half of a household's drinking water is actually going on the garden – if we can change that with grey water you are going to see a huge difference from March next year," Mr Beattie said.
Mr Beattie said the plan marked an agreement between the state government, its federal counterpart and the Brisbane City Council.
Deputy Opposition leader Jeff Seeney criticised the water price jumps today, saying a lack of water infrastructure rather than consumer usage was to blame.
"The extra charges that he has announced will amount to a tax on every Queenslander ... and won't solve the problem," Mr Seeney said.
"The problem has been the lack of infrastructure – southeast Queensland especially has the same water supply now that we had 15 years ago."
Families lose out by using rainwater George Megalogenis September 17, 2005
THE cost of installing a rainwater tank, a symbol of environmentally friendly housing, would take families a lifetime to pay off if they used the funds saved on their water bills.
The Housing Industry Association also estimates that using recycled water for the toilet would leave a household worse off by as much as $150 a year.
The gap would only be partly covered by boosting the first-home owner grant by $3000 to $10,000, as a federal parliamentary committee proposed this week in a report into building sustainable cities.
The increased grant would help cover the cost of introducing five-star sustainability rating systems for homes in all states, as the committee proposed.
The hard numbers illustrate the dilemma at the heart of the water conservation debate: the cost of building water-efficient housing exceeds the benefits for home owners.
One of the problems is that the water used by households is still very cheap. But the cost of a tank would cost families up to three times as much to install than the money they would save from their water bill over 20 years.
Another is that households account for just 9 per cent of the water used nationally, compared with 67 per cent for agriculture.
In a submission to Victoria's competition watchdog, the HIA details the sums involved in adding a rainwater tank to a new home, based on a survey of its members.
"The cost of supplying and installing a 2000-litre rainwater tank plumbed to one toilet equates to $3792, whilst the interest on a 20-year mortgage at 6.5 per cent per annum equates to (another) $2993," the HIA says in its submission to the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission.
"Interestingly, the interest payable annually on the extra $3792 mortgage is likely to be two or three times more than the potential savings in water usage costs each year. Also, these costings do not include ongoing maintenance expenses."
The HIA says the best-case scenario is a $55 saving on the water bill, but this would be half or a third of the annual cost of the rainwater tank.
Victoria is the only state that requires all new houses to meet a five-star conservation rating.
One option available to clear the hurdle is a rainwater tank. Another is a solar hot water system, which the HIA says is twice as expensive with an upfront cost of $4827 and another $3810 in interest over 20 years.
This week, the federal parliamentary committee for the environment released its report into building sustainable cities.
Committee chairman Mal Washer said Australia was one of the most urbanised nations in the world, and faced serious challenges with "water shortages, transport congestion and high energy demands".
"There is no doubt a number of Australian cities are in imminent danger of running out of water," the Liberal MP said.
The committee said all states and territories should follow Victoria's lead and introduce five-star rating systems. To address concerns that this would impose a tax on first-home buyers, the committee called on the federal Government to pick up part of the tab.
"The committee believes that, as an incentive for sustainable building practices, the Australian Government should increase the first-home owner grant to $10,000 for those homes that meet specified sustainability criteria," the report said.
The catch, confirmed yesterday, was that the HIA's own data showed that an extra $3000 would still leave the first-home buyer worse off after installing a rainwater tank on the roof.
"Once fully operational, this scheme will save 20 million litres of water a day, or enough to supply about 30,000 homes," Mr Iemma said in a statement.
The state government also announced it would spend $1.7 million on eight rain water harvesting projects in Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains, to collect water before it runs off as stormwater.
POOL owners in Brisbane face the most expensive and least efficient water-saving strategies in Australia as the city faces themost severe water shortage in the country.
The cost of water savings from new mandatory pool covers for 180,000 households in southeast Queensland will be at least $4 a kilolitre - more than four times the value of the price charged by Brisbane Water.
This is also between five and 10 times more expensive than other conservation measures in other cities, including rebates for water-efficient shower heads and washing machines.
paying for our water usage September 16, 2006 4:04 PM
I think the high users ought to pay for it also, here in the states; however, with only .02% freshwater in the world, I don't think any amount of money is going to save it. It could, though, bring in enough extra revenue to do more about fresh water and recycling gray water.
All I know is SOMETHING needs to be done and quickly. What will our grandchildren have in their lives?