Page 3777 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008

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One of the more innovative changes provided for by the act is the introduction of efficient use protocols in calculating water needs of both existing and new licence holders. Previously, when an applicant applied for a licence to take water, the onus was on the applicant to demonstrate what they considered to be an appropriate volume of water for their proposed use. Few applicants had sound information on water needs, resulting in over-allocation, and often excessive water use.

The efficient use protocol was developed based on local climatic conditions, long-term metering of water use by existing licence holders, input from other jurisdictions with similar licence holders, and known scientific principles relating to recharge, evaporation and run-off. Use of the protocol on new applications and existing licences not only provides environmental benefits but also will ensure that volumes of water are equitably and sustainably allocated to licence holders, comparable with other jurisdictions. Along with ensuring that water is efficiently used, the use protocol also minimises water access entitlements so that water resources are not unnecessarily tied up, thus enabling as great a contribution as possible to reducing demand on mains water supplies.

As was previously the case, the act continues to allow the Environment Protection Authority to issue Actew with the licence it needs to manage the mains water supply efficiently and effectively. Importantly, however, the act and its regulations ensure that innovative approaches to water supply, such as the Cotter-Googong bulk transfer scheme, sewer mining projects and, potentially, the Water2WATER proposal, can be accommodated.

The act refines the functions and actions of the Environment Protection Authority in developing, coordinating, regulating and maintaining robust management of the water resources of the territory. Specifically, the act provides for greater clarity, transparency and consistency in the administration of water resources management by reducing the scope for discretionary decisions by the EPA, by being more specific on licensing, allocating and exemption requirements, and by having clearer and more effective compliance arrangements.

The government is committed to ensuring that the ACT’s environment management practices are in accordance with the government’s strategic objectives and national and international best practice. To give effect to that commitment, the government, through the Territory and Municipal Services Environment and Recreation Network, has initiated a number of programs. Those include the licensing of service stations and shooting ranges in the ACT under the Environment Protection Act 1997 and the remediation of the historic petrol plume located in the city area. These are only a couple of examples of where the government is ensuring that activities which have the potential to cause land contamination, resulting in adverse impacts on human health and the environment, are appropriately managed under the Environment Protection Act 1997.

In addition to these initiatives, the Environment Protection Authority is implementing a review program of all environment protection policies made under the Environment Protection Act 1997. The review of these policies, which includes consultation with the community, industry and relevant representative organisations, will ensure that the

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