Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 23 September 2010) . . Page.. 4479 ..
familiar. Despite their negativity, these two quotes serve to remind us that we need to use our water wisely in times of drought and never be complacent about our water supply in times of abundance.
Ms Hunter’s topic for today’s matter of public importance is timely, especially now that we seem to be approaching a time of abundance. I note from today’s Canberra Times that the season of abundant rainfall is likely to continue through spring and summer—and Ms Porter has touched on that already—so we can look forward to further increases in our dam levels.
Actew Corporation, with the support of the government, has already relaxed our water restrictions to stage 2. Once the dams reach 80 per cent capacity, which seems likely within a matter of days, there could be a further relaxation to water conservation measures. That may well be fine if the forecast rain continues, with the resultant decrease in community demand for water, but if there is a hot, dry spell during the summer and early autumn there could well be pressure on our water storage levels, with the ultimate sanction being a return to higher level restrictions.
What is the impact of these changes on our water restriction mechanisms and on our water conservation approaches generally? In times of abundance we have to be wary of complacency. Given the rain and the rapidly increasing dam levels, people in the ACT may feel a little complacent. I think it is reasonable to say that that is understandable after years and years of doing it tough. In times of drought, we might be more inclined to doom.
Is the solution simply to maintain a constant regime of water restrictions and conservation measures? Or is the solution to raise and lower water restrictions based simply on water storage levels in our dams? We are in a situation where it is a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. In the end, the aim must be to achieve a balance between the extremes of Hanrahan’s laments. We should not be in a position to shout, “We’ll all be rooned,” because there is too much or too little water.
Having said that, it seems to me that the time is right to reward the people of Canberra for their considerable restraint in their use of water over the past four to seven years—the last four years when we have been in stage 3 water restrictions and the times when we have been confronted with the possibility of even stage 4 water restrictions. Accordingly, I applaud the recent action of Actew Corporation to ease water restrictions in the ACT. It is time to say to the people of the ACT that it is okay to water their garden, to wash their cars and to wash their windows—within reason.
I applaud the people of the ACT for their impressive efforts in water conservation over the past years. Ms Hunter pointed to the fact that in the late 1990s, the previous century, our gross water consumption was in the order of 75 gigalitres and it is now down to 45 gigalitres. That is an impressive turnaround for the people of the ACT, but in doing that we have had severe impacts upon our community. Perhaps now is the time that Canberra can reclaim its image of being the garden city instead of the dead brown city. In saying that, I have to say that we must make sure that we do not become complacent.