27 March, 2013

my submission to the Qld Water Strategy

The following is my submission to the community consultation on the Qld Water Strategy, which closes on 29 March 2013, 11.59pm

Queensland's water sector: a 30-year strategy discussion paper

Department of Energy and Water Supply

PO Box 15456

City East Qld 4002

To whom it may concern,

Please find follow a few brief comments addressing the 30 year water strategy discussion paper.

Over the next 30 years, it is increasing likely that rainfall will become more variable and more intense. We are likely to see greater extremes of droughts and flooding rains.

I am concerned about the emphasis in the strategy on "lowest cost". I would like to see a greater emphasis on best value.

There are opportunities for integration of water management that could lead to lower costs.

There is a wholesale move by the Qld State Government towards "light handed" regulation. While I understand the rationale, I am not entirely confident that environmental and public health values can be protected with "light handed" regulation.

That said, I would like to see more demonstration projects and research around new and innovative ways to obtain and deliver water supplies and sewage/trade waste collection and treatment.

The current institutional arrangements for water supply and sewage collection and treatment is not ideal.

I would like to see more vertical integration.

The water sector is currently split horizontally (particularly in SE Qld) along the same lines as the electricity industry into generators and retail/distributors.

This model does not lend itself to integrated water management, across water catchments. In many cases local councils are in a better position to manage the integrated water cycle. Storm water is often neglected as a source of useful water, particularly for industrial reuse, cooling water, irrigation water etc.

I would like to see the retention of the integrity of the regulatory framework (e.g. drinking water quality, environmental protection, public health) while reducing the regulatory burden, by making regulation less prescriptive and move towards performance based or outcome based regulation.

I think water/sewage quality regulation needs to focus on setting criteria that are "fit for purpose".

Self regulation is appropriate when water and sewage treatment plants are run by public sector utilities. I would be very concerned if self regulation applied to private sector (for-profit) utilities.

I think it is entirely appropriate that numerous government departments regulate or have an interest in water and sewerage services including DEWS, Environment, health, natural resources etc.

I think the water business would benefit from geographical catchment based water utilities. In some cases that might been amalgamation of small regional (council utilities). In SEQ, that might mean de-amalgamation of Qld Urban Utilities and Unity Water. Water Utilities should mange the entire water cycle including water supply, stormwater, sewage, trade waste and water recycling.

During the millennium drought (2002-2009), the western corridor water recycling scheme was established. This scheme has never been commissioned for indirect potable re-use.

There would be many benefits from treating sewage effluent for potable reuse.

The advanced water treatment plant at Bundamba could also improve the quality of the effluent that is currently being discharged to the natural environment.

If purified recycled water was used for potable supplies, one would not have to retain so much water in dams. The dams could be operated with lower storage levels and provide greater capacity for flood mitigation.

In terms of innovation, I would like to see the Qld water industry participate in more local projects, to demonstrate the next generation of toilet technologies. As a developed nation, I would like to see us invest in developing technologies that have global implications.

There are 2.4 billion people in the world who lack access to a designated sustainable place to poo. A billion of those people live in Asia/Pacific.

There are a billion people in the world who lack access to adequate drinking water supplies.

The Qld water industry could be developing technologies and service delivery models that meet our own needs. The same technologies may help those in developing communities.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the consultation for the 30 year water strategy.


Rowan Barber      

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