Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3862 ..
MS TUCKER (3.36): Water issues are unavoidable at the moment. I have proposed this matter of public importance today to give us all another opportunity in the Assembly to talk about the way we manage and use precious water resources in our environment. There are several reasons for considering this issue today: it is Water Week; the ACT water resources strategy has gone to cabinet this week, so the government will be making announcements, or certainly thinking, about water; with the stage 3 water restrictions, everyone in Canberra has, hopefully, considered their own water use, heading into summer; and Canberra's lakes have been closed this week, with an algal bloom outbreak.
According to the Australian Conservation Foundation, Australia is the highest user of water per capita in the world, despite being the driest inhabited continent. One toilet flush in Australia uses as much water as a whole day's cleaning, cooking and drinking for an average person in the developing world. Forty per cent of the world's people struggle to obtain enough fresh water.
That highlights how lucky we are, and it highlights our responsibility to reduce water consumption and our need to become aware of how wasteful we are with water. Our high level of water consumption impacts on the health of our river systems. Over a quarter of Australian river systems are close to, or have exceeded, sustainable extraction limits, and two-thirds of water extracted is from these stressed systems.
I want to consider a few things: cutting water use; water supply issues, such as building another dam; and water management by commercial interests. I am not shy in stating that the Greens have never supported building another dam for water supply in the ACT, and we have also made it clear that we think that the management of Canberra's water supply and sewerage services should not be in the hands of commercial interests. In fact, we believe they should be handed back to Actew, as a government managed body. I will go into this in more detail later.
The population growth of the ACT requires secure water. There is vigorous debate about what the projected population of Canberra will be in 20, 50 or 100 years. Current government median population projections are close to 400,000 by 2050. I understand that the existing water supply dams can support this population growth with the same security of supply-on a few conditions, such as a 10 per cent likelihood of restrictions, no climate change influence, no supply reduction due to natural disasters and no increase in the proportion of cross-border supply and existing per capita water consumption.
Obviously, there are a number of variables here that have to be taken into account in any planning for water, but I believe the emphasis must be on reducing per capita consumption of water. We can decrease the amount of clean drinking water we use by enormous amounts. This should be our absolute priority in managing our water supply.
However, those with a growth and development fetish would have us believe that we need engineering answers to increase our water supply to match the demand that will increase as the population grows. A number of engineering solutions have been suggested, including building large pipes for existing dams, piping water from rivers such as the Naas or Gudgenby, reclaiming water from the lower Molonglo water quality