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Liveable Townsville: Uncovering the role of water

Chris Manning is Coordinator, Townsville City Council - Townsville Water and Waste.

Townsville is a regional city located in the coastal dry tropics region of Queensland, immediately adjacent to the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. It is home to approximately 200,000 people, with the population projected to more than double by 2050.

The Great Barrier Reef and our significant waterways and wetlands are an asset to our community but also present challenges in ensuring ongoing environmental protection. These include increasing regulation and cost of treatment infrastructure, community expectations, and limited funding support.

In addition, the Townsville community exhibits very high average per capita potable water use. This can in part be explained by our unique soils, climatic conditions, vegetation types, and community expectations for a liveable and green Townsville.

All of these factors combined create challenges for sustainably managing water in our region. Townsville has experienced severe drought and an unprecedented flood event in recent times. In this way we are similar to other Australian cities and towns that are being increasingly challenged by the extremes of droughts and floods, while also playing a vital role in the Australian economy and supporting the lives of residents.

Challenge accepted

Townsville City Council (TCC) recognised the need to redefine how it manages the whole water cycle, including waterways, wetlands, marine, groundwater, stormwater, potable, wastewater and recycled water to create a more liveable, resilient and productive community.

In doing so, the council also recognised the role of water in providing enhanced amenity, liveability, economic development, and mitigating urban heat issues.

TCC recognised it needed to:

  • transition from a ‘needs based’ to a ‘values based’ water management system over time; and
  • understand water’s role in this transition in the dry tropics of Townsville.

TCC partnered with the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Water Sensitive Cities to leverage the experience of researchers, practitioners and communities from around Australia to develop an approach that is relevant to Townsville’s unique identity and circumstances.

After benchmarking the city’s current state and transition progress, an overall vision and several high-level strategies were developed to promote Townsville’s transition to a water sensitive city.

The vision

Townsville is an attractive, resilient city that manages water to enhance healthy ecosystems, embrace dramatic natural water cycles, drive world-leading innovation, and support citizens who are proud of their dry tropical identity.

What’s next?

TCC will actively seek to improve and build upon internal systems and processes and influence external systems and processes that affect how Townsville’s water is managed.

It will also engage with the community and other key stakeholders and implement relevant on-ground actions, including passively watered street trees, water reuse schemes and the Water Smart Package, which is a program that makes water-saving products more accessible to residents through vouchers and rebates.

Data from smart water meters, rainfall, weather stations (including river, stormwater and sewer heights and flows), soil moisture and pressure sensors will be leveraged to help empower the community and infrastructure operators.

In doing this, TCC expects the outcomes to include a reduction in water use, improved water quality, liveability, health and resilience, and enhanced community engagement.

Townsville City Council is a contributing member of the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities.