Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 23 September 2010) . . Page.. 4485 ..
But the important point is that different people do put different value on water and want to use it for different things. Now, of course, theory dictates that one way to find out how much people value water is to price it and to see what they are prepared to pay—to essentially operate a free market around water. When it is less available, it will become more expensive; when it is freely available, of course, the price will drop. That is the classic market model. I know that, when the restrictions were lifted earlier this month, there were some who said that water restrictions should be completely removed. Maybe we should move to a system where water is priced in a way that reflects its scarcity.
The Greens do not support this approach as, clearly, access to safe potable water is a human right and, as with energy prices, we do not want to disadvantage those in our community who can at least afford to pay higher prices. That said, there is also little evidence that setting a market price for water will actually change behaviours in the same way that water restrictions do. Stage 3 restrictions are designed to achieve 35 per cent efficiency savings. What price would we need to see water rise to in order to achieve those kinds of savings?
However, there may be some value in reviewing the water pricing regime. The current threshold for triggering a higher price per unit of water is 200 kilolitres per year. That is around 550 litres per day per household. Given the changes that Canberrans have made to their consumption patterns over recent years, it would be valuable to see how often that threshold is triggered. Many families would not come close to consuming that amount of water, so the current pricing strategy may not be sending any kind of signal about valuing water at all.
I touched earlier on the cost-effectiveness of efficiency measures. I think as well as establishing permanent water restrictions, as Ms Hunter touched on, there is a range of measures that we do want to put in place, because in the long term, as this city continues to grow, there is a limit to how much water we can capture and, therefore, make available. In the context of future projections of water supply and rainfall, we are going to need to be constantly conscious of our water consumption. There is a range of measures. Integration of best practice water sensitive urban design in new developments is one measure, and we have great opportunities in areas such as East Lake and Molonglo, as well as the new suburbs in Gungahlin.
The Greens believe it is not okay just to build new developments without taking this into account. Increasing the number of houses and people will continue to put pressure on our water supply, as I touched on. There are many and varied technologies available that mean new areas can be highly efficient. The houses we build today will continue to consume water over the next 40 or 50 years—well into the period when projections tell us that water security will be an issue for the ACT.
Now I know that ACTPLA’s water sensitive urban design has been implemented into the territory plan, and that is certainly a step forward in terms of funding and planning, but there are new developments in other places that are being far more innovative in their grey water management. They are being far more innovative in saying, “We are going to go beyond current norms and we are really going to stretch ourselves,