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Making a commitment to water efficiency

Water efficiency has been an on again-off again relationship for Australian communities and water utilities but there are some good reasons to make a commitment.

The Australian Water Association’s Water Efficiency Specialist Network believes that reduced water wastage is key to keeping water affordable for all users and providing resilient water systems for all communities. Water efficiency is about using water, but meeting community needs with less or different water.

Affordability and resilience are becoming an increasing focus, especially with water security concerns throughout many parts of Australia. This is despite significant capital infrastructure spending over the past decade, and before population increases projected in many cities are considered.

The specialist network's position is that water efficiency is not just a crisis response; maximising the utility of available water resources should be a central part of any approach to water planning or management from an engineering, economic, environmental or governance perspective.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) established an important principle that the full portfolio of water supply and demand options should be considered for urban water management. The first option is optimising the use of existing infrastructure through efficiency measures.

After the millennium drought, this view was published through the Australian Water Association’s Case for Water Efficiency (2012) which found that “water efficiency must be considered equally with supply-side options in the development of any strategy to improve long term water supply security.”

Water efficiency was found to be the cheapest supply option in the Water Services Association of Australia’s recent report, All options on the table: urban water supply options for Australia.

COAG also considered that water should be managed on a whole of water cycle basis.

Unfortunately, the evidence shows that water efficiency is not a priority for investment overall, and that water efficiency is not considered alongside supply infrastructure options and integrated with other aspects of the urban water cycle.

Water efficiency is a big topic and well-suited to lively discussion with practitioners from a range of backgrounds. Key focus areas of the specialist network have recently included:

  • What is happening throughout Australia with water efficiency?
  • What kinds of programs suit different organisations?
  • Policy and regulatory frameworks
  • Economic frameworks and evaluation approaches that can effectively compare demand and supply options

If you’re a member of the Australian Water Association, you can join the Water Efficiency Specialist Network and connect with likeminded professionals.