08 March, 2012

Sustainable Business Weekly Qld Edition [the water blame game]

In the course of the Millenium drought (2002-2009), the Labor Government spent $7b on a water grid & water purification & recycling infrastructure.

This infrastructure included the Bundamba Advanced Water Treatment Plant, designed to produce "Purified Recycled" Water from tertiary treated sewage effluent.

Currently, the Bundamba Advanced Water Treatment Plant provides a little bit of water to local industry, Swanbank Power Station and Springfield township. During the Drought it also supplied water to Tarong Power Station. Since 2011, Tarong has water to spare from its own catchment.

Neither the ALP or the LNP have any plans to utilise the idle water recycling infrastructure & stop the Councils or Council owned Utilities from discharging sewage effluent into the Rivers & Moreton Bay.

It is cheaper, more environmentally sound & climate friendly to recycle waste water than it is to desalinate sea water.

In the process of recycling water, one could recover the nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, etc....) that are currently polluting the waterways. These nutrients could be used beneficially in agriculture.

In the light of this, let us have a closer look at the Liberal National Party's Water Policy. The LNP claim that Queenslanders are facing spiraling costs of living and family budgets are under severe strain because Labor can't get the basics right. The LNP Claim that there is no forward planning, Perhaps they have not read the South East Qld Water Strategy ....or perhaps they have, since the LNP Strategy looks very similar.

The South East Queensland Water Strategy was released on 15 July 2010. The Strategy is a long-term blueprint for ensuring a sustainable, efficient and secure water supply for South East Queensland (SEQ) into the future.

Granted there were some panic decisions by the Qld State Labor Government caused the South East Queensland Water Grid to be undertaken without adequate planning.

The water grid itself was never a great idea but given the circumstances (Water Supply Dams running empty), it was part of the policy of being seen to be doing something.....

To be fair much of the planning for the Western Corridor water recycling scheme was undertaken by Ipswich Water and adopted by the State Government in a knee jerk response to 7 years of consecutive drought.

This led to the a $7 billion price tag for the Water Grid....At least $600 million was wasted on the failed Traveston Crossing Dam (there is no argument with that).

The $1.1 billion for the Tugun desalination plant was probably money well spent. Desalination is an expensive option but it does provide SEQ with a level of water security that a dam cannot ensure. All other capital cities have gone for similar options.

Another $350 million Wyaralong Dam is not connected to the water grid.

There is no basis for the LNP's claim that South-East Queensland water bills are set to double over the next seven years. Prices have been capped to a maximum rise linked to the Consumer Price Index.

In fact: In the last 18 months, Queensland Urban Utilities reduced prices in four of their five service territories and improved network performance.

Under pressure from the LNP & Gold Coast City Council, Labor allowed Gold Coast City to have its water retail & distribution business separated from Allconnex (Discinnex?), leaving Redlands & Logan to go it alone as well.

The LNP's plan for the future looks much the same as the existing SEQ Water Strategy....

So let's have a look at the LNP is committed to:

  • LNP Policy Commitment:
  • * Plan properly for Queensland's future water needs and creating a sustainable water supply that caters for population increases and meets the needs of households, industry and agriculture; and
  • * Increasing efficiency in water delivery from the grid to the household, while maintaining a responsible approach to water use and waste.

This looks a lot like the SEQ Water Strategy:

Conserving water

  • Making Target 200 SEQ's voluntary residential water use target.
  • Ensuring business and industry consider water efficiency as part of good business practices.

Being prepared

  • Investigating potential bulk water supply options and new technologies relating to water supply sources to ensure the best decisions are made in the future.
  • Preparing a drought response plan for SEQ to identify what needs to happen in the lead up to, during and after any future drought in the region.
  • Reporting on the implementation of the Strategy annually, including a review of the fundamental planning assumptions such as climate and weather impacts, population growth and community water use.

Managing water efficiently

  • Operating the SEQ Water Grid cost effectively and efficiently.
  • Keeping climate-resilient sources on standby so more can be taken from dams in times of plenty, knowing back-up supplies are available when needed.

To date, the LNP has committed to:

The Four Point Water Plan:

  • 1. Amalgamate the four bulk water entities into one entity to reduce the cost of supplying water (this is probably a great deal of sense in this point);
  • 2. Hand back control of water distribution and retailing to councils who previously did a far better job of managing water resources than the Bligh Government (as it turns out - one way or another control of water distribution & retailing is already handled directly by Councils or by Council owned Utilities);
  • 3. Write off non-performing water grid assets to reduce sharp price rises (is an accounting slight of hand, that make no real difference to water & sewage pricing);
  • 4. Adopt a 40 year price path to repay the Bligh Government's $7 billion water grid debt over the economic life of the assets, which will also reduce the cost of water (just postpones the inevitable costs to future generations, as a political expedience).

None of the above will have significant impacts on the bulk cost of water or retail price of water.

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