Alice asked to adopt ‘community water rules’

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

“Community water rules” – does that sound like you’re going to be told you can only water the garden twice a week or only use a bucket to wash your car? Not in Alice, not yet anyway. Alice Water Smart, a $15m project funded by the Australian Government, wants the town to formulate its own rules for using water more efficiently. But this won’t force you to change your lifestyle and the rules will be voluntary, more a guide to maintain “what you’ve got” or get you “what you want to have”, says project officer Liz Locksley.

 

Above: Long-time locals Murray and Barbara Neck reduced their water bill by 40% after putting their garden on drippers, installing a pool cover, repairing leaks and buying a water-efficient washing machine. Photo courtesy Alice Water Smart.

 

So it’s not necessarily the end of green lawns and swimming pools in the desert, but rather, if they are what you want, it’s about getting smarter in how you manage them. The project offers free water efficiency consultations – they’ve done 560 to date. They’ve been for all sorts of properties, says Ms Locksley, from some belonging to the town’s highest water users down to apartments with very small gardens.

 

Alice residents are the highest per capita water-users in the country and we come close to, and even sometimes exceed the cap on our public water supply (based on its “sustainable yield”). Householders, not industry and public services, are responsible for two-thirds of the total usage. The Water Smart consultations have reinforced what was already known about that: gardens take about two-thirds. Of that about half can be saved without changing the user’s lifestyle preference, says Ms Locksley, simply by being more efficient.  The basic motto is “water deeper, longer, less often” but the consultations give you the detailed advice on how to go about this for your particular type of garden.

 

Another significant contributor to waste is leaks, accounting for about quarter of  the “opportunity for savings”.  Smaller changes make up the rest of the opportunity, things like dual-flush toilets, efficient shower-heads, adjusting the evaporative air-conditioner bleed rate, buying water-efficient washing machines and dishwashers.

 

The target for Alice Water Smart is to reduce use by 1600 million litres pa, the equivalent of two months’ of current usage. Ms Locksley says they want to work with a bottom-up approach, getting the community to embrace this goal and the “rules” about how to achieve it. She says “social marketing” research backs this approach and that “top-down regulation” elsewhere hasn’t necessarily achieved its desired outcomes.

 

“Our general finding from the consultations is that people do want to be smart about their water use,” she says.

 

If the town takes on the rules, it will be an Australian first and Alice’s contribution to the UN’s International Year of Water Cooperation in 2013.

 

A Citizens’ Advisory Panel is being set up to guide the process and the Town Council was asked last night to nominate a representative.  A number of public meetings will be held in the near future to take the process further.

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3 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Posted October 23, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I would like to add some further information about Alice Water Smart, including why we need to save water, the project funding and some of the great achievements in water savings since it was launched in July 2011.
    Alice Water Smart is a two year project that aims to preserve Alice Springs’ non-renewable groundwater source and secure the long term sustainability of the town. The article is correct in the aim of Alice Water Smart, which is to reduce water consumption by Alice Springs’ residents by 1,600 million litres per year – equivalent to two months average water supply.
    The $15 million Alice Water Smart Plan includes home and business water consultations, an expanded rebate scheme, smart irrigation for parks and ovals, improved water management and increased recycling and installation of smart meters to allow homes and businesses to monitor water use.
    Funding of $7.5 million is being provided by the Australian Government Water for the Future initiative, which was matched by Power and Water with contributions from consortium members.
    In the last year, over 1000 million litres of water has been saved so far, the equivalent of 440 Olympic sized swimming pools. Water Efficiency Consultations in over 560 homes have identified 250 million litres of water savings and 1,500 Waterwise rebates have been used to improve home water efficiency, saving 40 million litres.
    Through irrigation and plumbing upgrades, Alice Springs schools have achieved total water savings of 11 million litres – equivalent to the water capacity of four Alice Springs’ Leisure and Aquatic Centres. Power and Water have also been working to ensure the town’s water infrastructure is as leak-free as possible and recently used SmartBall technology to inspect 30 kilometers of critical water mains for leaks.
    64 Alice Springs parks and ovals have had an irrigation makeover using smart irrigation technology which measures weather elements such as temperature and rainfall, and will save around 80 million litres per year.
    20 tourist accommodation providers have had Water Efficiency Audits, with over 180 million litres of water savings (72 Olympic sized swimming pools) identified. A further 35 business or non residential properties are making use of free Water Efficiency Consultations and preparing Water Management Reports with over 213 million litres of water reductions identified.
    Wastewater treatment facilities are being upgraded to provide higher quality recycled water to new users south of The Gap and the new Kilgariff subdivision will now use recycled water to irrigate ovals when ready.
    Community Water Rules are just one of the many aspects of Alice Water Smart and they will help to make our non-renewable water supply last longer and make Alice water smart for the long term.

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  2. Hal Duell
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    My money is also on the money.
    The Arctic sea ice is melting due in part, and quite possibly in large part, to mankind’s use of hydrocarbons. And with the disappearance of that ice, vast new fields of hydrocarbons have been exposed to the extraction industries. Those extraction industries are now falling over themselves in the race to stake their claims.
    We will use those new flows of hydrocarbons in the world’s energy grid, both because we can, and because not one of us wants to turn the lights out.
    In the 21st Century, this passes for intelligence.
    A bit like here in Alice where not one of us wants to turn our water off. So we’ll drill deeper for our supply, and continue to water our lawns in the summer sun.
    Fancy anyone telling us not to. Or even suggesting it. The cheek of it. Bloody shushers. And they are being funded by our hard-earned taxes.
    Next they’ll suggest we spend even more of our taxes to buy solar panes from China! Because we no longer make our own.
    Why, oh why, can’t things be like they used to be. All this thinking – it’s giving me a headache. I can’t cope. Maybe I’ll go water the lawn. Take a Bex. Have a lie-down.
    Enviro-Nazis. Don’t they just give you the shits!

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  3. Janet Brown
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 8:39 am

    $15 million for water wise and all we need is $30 million to build a new youth centre. Sounds like propaganda wins out over the kids again. Just like the millions wasted to promote statehood. The cost to pensioners and low income people for unrealistic power costs. That are forcing people to go hungry because after bills of rent and electricity. This cost was put on due to solar panels installed and the revenues lost by power and water had to come from the other users. People really don’t matter they can all starve or freeze to death in winter. As long as the propaganda train continues steaming ahead. Balance is needed and whilst climate change idiots hold the steering wheel more and more people will suffer. And water like electricity has to come at a cost to the population so is it about money or environment. My money is on the money.

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