Page 4546 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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water. Again in the motion before us the units are referred to as very inefficient and, therefore, working against the government’s stated water efficiency policy.

As background, I would like to remind the Assembly of the government’s commitment to implement water-saving measures to ensure that we use our water resources in a sustainable fashion. As Mr Corbell has said, a number of approaches have already been or will be implemented as detailed in the think water, act water strategy released in April 2004 that Mrs Dunne has referred to several times. That strategy took as a core principle that water efficiency should be sought across residential households, targeting those areas where water usage was largest and most inefficient. The indoor tune-up program has been operating for over a year and targets water-inefficient areas such as the bathroom and toilet. Similarly, the outdoor tune-up program targets water wastage in gardens.

As Mr Corbell has said, we are finding that the kitchen is not a major water consumption area and there are not great water savings to be gained in this area. Of entire household use, only six per cent of water is used in the kitchen. Water is a precious resource and should be used wisely; but just how much water do in-sink garbage disposal units use and how much would be saved by banning their installation in new homes? As Mr Corbell said, recent advice on water consumption of modern units indicates that they use as little as six litres per person per day. I know you are sick of hearing it over there, but how much water would we save by banning their installation? Even if we assume that—in the unlikely situation, as Mr Corbell said—50 per cent of households in Canberra install units, overall ACT water consumption would increase by approximately 150 megalitres of water per year, which is less than one per cent of the total consumption. We are probably repeating this because it takes a lot of numbers to sink in over there. In reality, only about six per cent of households have installed these units. Consequently, their effect on future consumption in the ACT is likely to be insignificant.

The third environmental issue I would like to raise about these units is the actual waste material they process. In-sink garbage disposal units process two sorts of waste: vegetable matter and animal-sourced waste. The units direct all this material to the sewer and on to the lower Molonglo plant for treatment. Households without units have two alternatives for this material. Vegetable material can be composted or put out in the garbage to go to landfill. Animal-sourced waste must go to landfill. The policy of the government on waste as detailed in the no waste by 2010 policy is to reduce our waste streams as much as possible, particularly that waste going to landfill.

So for vegetable waste the best alternative is to use household compost. This option, as Mr Corbell said, is not always possible or practical, for example in some apartments. In such instances, the use of an in-sink garbage disposal unit is consistent with our government’s waste minimisation strategy as it reduces the waste stream to landfill. In a similar fashion, the diversion of animal waste to sewer via an in-sink unit is consistent with the waste policy.

As Mr Corbell has explained, downstream of the lower Molonglo water in-sink garbage disposal units will not cause deterioration in the condition of the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee rivers. All effluent releases below the plant are regulated under the plant operating licence and must meet stringent environmental standards regardless of whether in-sink garbage disposal units are used or not.

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