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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4121..

MR WOOD (continuing):

I am now reporting back to the Assembly, indicating progress on that motion. This is a reporting stage. We have assembled the bare bones now-the framework of that strategy-and that can be further developed over the next period. The paper I am presenting includes a comprehensive response to the important issues raised by the motion, and I am speaking to that now.

With drought affecting much of the country, water has become a highly important issue in the minds of both the government and the community. For the first time in 35 years the ACT is under voluntary water restrictions, and it will not be long before it faces compulsory restrictions.

While the current situation is quite serious, it is important to put our water management record in perspective. Canberra is the largest inland city in Australia and also the largest city in the Murray-Darling basin. We experience the full gamut of water resource management issues that occur in other parts of Australia, although our focus is very much on water resources in an urban setting.

We use our water bodies every day of our lives, relying on them for drinking water, recreation and supporting our abundant wildlife and landscape. Water is critical to our economic security.

Canberra has a long history of being a world-class urban water manager, pioneering stormwater treatment in the 1970s, controlling erosion and sediment control in building sites in the 1980s and introducing the water abstraction charge in the 1990s. The 1990s also saw us protect environmental flows, which contribute significantly to the health of our water bodies and the waters downstream from us.

As Ms Tucker desires, we now have an opportunity in this decade to lead the way in water conservation and management, and it is timely that the United Nations has proclaimed next year, 2003, the International Year of Freshwater. Sustainable water use is a problem that is being tackled globally.

A key element of the Assembly motion is to avoid, as far as possible, the building of further water supply dams in the ACT. It is certainly this government's aspiration to avoid the building of another dam, particularly given the current cost estimate for a new dam of about $200 million. We need to continue taking a series of small steps, with the expectation that we continue to improve our water management until those steps have grown large enough to avoid building that dam.

In addition to the overarching issue of high demand for limited resources, major issues to be tackled in the future include managing competing uses of water resources, such as recreation versus consumption; restricting pollution from urban run-off; and absorbing the impact of growing economic, regional and urban development. The fundamental challenge will still be to reduce the amount of potable water we use.

There are various things going on in concert as we develop this strategy. Actew is undertaking a world benchmark study into the whole water cycle to identify options for optimising water use.

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