Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 23 September 2010) . . Page.. 4481 ..
amenity of families. It is about the impact that that has on the whole microclimate of suburbs and streets and Canberra itself. When there is more grass and greenery, a place is cooler. We tend to use less air conditioning and the like. It improves the resale value of our properties, which is something that most Canberrans aspire to. It gives them an opportunity to put some order and some beauty into places that have been degraded during the drought.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (4.12): I thank Ms Hunter for raising this matter of public importance today.
There are few more important questions in Australia than water conservation. In recent weeks, our water utilities provider, Actew, has been able to relax water restrictions in the territory from level 3 to level 2, thanks to good winter and spring rains. Our dam levels are now close to 80 per cent, a level not seen for almost a decade. That is good news for households, for our natural environment and for many of our businesses.
We need to remember, however, that, while the weather now is favourable, it is also variable and the long-term climate change prognosis remains poor as regards ongoing water availability. So this recent good news should not be taken as a sign that we can now abandon the many excellent practices Canberrans have adopted to conserve water. It is in part thanks to the changes we have all made to our lifestyles that we are now in a position where three of our dams are full and a fourth is at two-thirds capacity.
From the government’s perspective, we will not be dropping the ball on water conservation. I would like to take members through some of our ongoing water conservation measures. Firstly, there is the Cotter Dam enlargement. One of the most important initiatives is the expansion of the Cotter Dam, a project that will expand its capacity by almost 20 times, from four to 78 gigalitres. This construction project is the cornerstone of the government’s water security strategy, along with the construction of the Murrumbidgee to Googong pipeline and the Tantangara transfer. These three initiatives represent a combined investment of $545 million in the ACT’s water security.
But supply augmentation is only one side of the water equation. The Cotter Dam expansion has also seen the creation of a curriculum unit for our schools so that students can be part of this significant project. This is by no means the first time schools have taken an active interest in water conservation, either at a learning or at a practical level. The ACT’s Australian sustainable schools initiative, which was a national finalist in the recent Keep Australia Beautiful sustainable city awards, is being run in almost 127 public and non-government schools in the territory. It has provided staff, students and parents with ways in which they can make their schools and lives in general more sustainable.
A critical component is the WaterWise audit process, a comprehensive audit that takes schools through the behavioural and other changes needed to reduce and maintain a reduction in their water consumption. ASSI officers check the schools’ water