Sydney, Blue Mountains and Illawarra Water Restrictions
SYDNEY, BLUE MOUNTAINS AND ILLAWARRA WATER RESTRICTIONS
Mr MATT BROWN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Energy and Utilities. What is the Government's response to the community's reaction to the recently introduced water restrictions for Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra?
Mr FRANK SARTOR: I begin by congratulating the honourable member for Kiama on his interest in water reform, both in his electorate and generally. Before I answer the question, I seek the indulgence of the House to congratulate the Minister for Health and his wife, Santina, because last Friday morning, Santina gave birth to two baby boys, Luca and Joshua. I am sure all honourable members congratulate Morris and Santina. I thank the House for its indulgence. On 1 October, mandatory water restrictions were introduced across Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains. It was a sensible and calibrated response to the water challenges facing our city.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber.
Mr FRANK SARTOR: The introduction of mandatory water restrictions comes as the prospect of another hot summer looms and water levels in our dams continue to recede. Reducing water consumption cannot be achieved by government decree. Success depends on forging a true community partnership—one that acknowledges the importance of the task that confronts us and involves the entire community in trying to achieve success. To that end the Government is calling on every citizen to get behind this conservation effort. The restrictions prohibit the use of sprinklers and irrigation systems and ban the hosing of hard surfaces. The Government's aim was to reduce water consumption by 7 per cent, but I am pleased to advise the House that in the first four weeks of restrictions we did even better than that.
During the first week of October our water consumption was 15.3 per cent below the target, or 250 million litres per day below the target. Naturally the rain we received last week would have helped to suppress demand, but credit is also due to the millions of people who responded to our water conservation effort. A comparison between last week's consumption and other higher rainfall periods shows that significantly less water was used then than during the wettest week of the year. Of course, there is no room for complacency. We know for a fact that when the weather becomes hotter our water consumption will rise; but we can be optimistic, because the actions of millions of people in their homes are delivering real savings of water. It is important to note that the introduction of restrictions has generated genuine discussion within the community about how water is used, how it is saved, and how it should be conserved. I quote the Sunday Telegraph editorial:
We cannot continue to use water as if it were a free and unlimited commodity. The Sunday Telegraph urges all of its readers to obey the water restrictions and to be conscious of our collective responsibility to preserve our most precious resource.
A sentiment with which we would all agree! As an example, take the views of Michelle Mylott of Bonnyrigg, who is a constituent of the honourable member for Cabramatta.
Mr Ian Armstrong: Point of order: The Minister in his response has not told us whether he will extend the household water tanks subsidy to all New South Wales—if he is being serious about water conservation.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for Lachlan to order.
Mr FRANK SARTOR: What rubbish! When Ms Mylott was asked by the Fairfield Advance what she thought of the restrictions, she said:
People need to have a conscience about when they water and how much they use, and then we can all do our bit to save water.
That is more excellent advice. Danielle Natali of Cecil Hills, who is a constituent of the honourable member for Liverpool, said:
I think it is a good idea. We have already stopped using our sprinklers and haven't washed our cars with a hose for a long time.
The Australian newspaper also commented:
There is some sense in getting Sydneysiders to turn off the sprinklers and use a bucket and a broom.
Our approach to water conservation goes much further than this. Our initiatives to improve housing sustainability aim to reduce water and energy consumption in new homes by 40 per cent.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to order.
Mr FRANK SARTOR: From 1 July next year, every new home in the metropolitan area will be required to make significant water savings by using water-efficient appliances, taps and shower nozzles, and rainwater tanks. But to maximise the benefit from the growing popularity of rainwater tanks, we have also slashed the red tape that made it difficult to reuse water for toilet flushing and washing.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to order for the second time.
Mr FRANK SARTOR: The Government is reforming the system with measures that include allowing rainwater tanks cross-connections to encourage the use of non-potable water for other purposes—and that is no small feat, as Dr Peter Coombes from the University of Newcastle remarked in an email to my office recently. He stated that the reform of the guidelines was "a considerable improvement and a very significant achievement". Our quest to turn the homes of Sydney into micro-catchments continues, reinforced by renewed rainwater tank rebates, enhanced by simplified rules and emboldened by growing community support for simple improvements that can make big savings of water.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Lachlan to order for the second time.
Mr FRANK SARTOR: I am pleased to inform the House that since the announcement of Sydney Water's extended rainwater tank rebate, applications for the installation of tanks have been flowing at the rate of more than 100 a week. As home building reform kicks in, we can look forward to that number increasing. I was also very pleased to visit the Arnotts snack food factory at Smithfield where an investment of just $250 has led to the saving of 21 million litres of water every year in the company's production line. With its water recycling plant, the factory has reduced consumption by 40 per cent.
AMP Henderson has installed water-saving devices at one of its office buildings at Jesse Street, Parramatta, resulting in a saving of 130,000 litres of water per day. There will be more good news to come, as 160 companies are currently working with Sydney Water's "Every Drop Counts" campaign. I take this opportunity to applaud our citizens and companies who have responded to the need to change the way in which we use water. I contrast that spirit of co-operation with the attitude adopted by members opposite. Throughout this entire debate there has not been one syllable of support for water conservation from the Opposition.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for North Shore to order.
Mr FRANK SARTOR: On the contrary, members opposite are peddling untruths. For example, on 25 September the honourable member for Wakehurst claimed that Sydney Water was losing up to 20 per cent through leaks.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order for the second time.
Mr FRANK SARTOR: Water leakage from Sydney Water's 21,000 kilometres of mains is half that amount, having been reduced from 11.8 per cent to 10.7 per cent since 1999. That means an additional 36 million litres of water is being saved in a year, which is better than the savings of a number of other interstate water utilities. However, I must say that more needs to be done. Most of the mains system is underground, and finding leaks underground of course is difficult. In the past 12 months Sydney Water has repaired 174 pipe leaks and 593 other leaks from hydrants and valves. Over the next 12 months 7,000 kilometres of pipeline will be inspected, which is approximately one-third of the network. Since introduction of the compulsory water restrictions we have been lucky to receive some rain, but not enough rain has fallen on our catchments; in fact, their levels have reduced. We cannot continue to rely on luck and must deal with this issue as a shared challenge for the entire community—and that is exactly how the community has been responding.