Page 322 - Week 01 - Thursday, 29 November 2012

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The ICRC recommended what should be a no-brainer—that for future projects the government subject any proposal for investment in water quality improvement initiatives to a cost-benefit analysis in comparison with other relevant options. It even went so far as to spell out to the government that it has an appalling record in the management of infrastructure projects. Let me spell it out to you as the ICRC has. Recommendation 7.2 states:

The Commission recommends that the ACT Government include an assessment of the following in the monitoring and evaluation trial phase of the Canberra Integrated Urban Waterways Project:

technical—volumetric reliability of stormwater ponds under different weather and irrigation demand conditions, and service reliability in relation to quality of water provided to end-users

environmental—impact of stormwater harvesting on the pond environment and reducing nutrient loads downstream, and filtrate management plan

commercial—actual costs to operate and maintain the pilot network by the utility, including administration costs, and water demand and supply volumes under different weather conditions

compliance—compliance with utility licensing conditions; this may include safety, retail service performance, emergency response measures and asset management.

The ACT Government should, to ensure that the trial provides the necessary information to support future decisions on stormwater reuse projects:

prepare a detailed monitoring and evaluation program workplan and budget, and ensure that there are clear and measurable criteria by which to gauge the viability of the pilot

ensure that the trial and monitoring and evaluation program are appropriately funded

ensure that the trial is conducted over a sufficient range of climate patterns to fully test reliability under different conditions.

Why should the ICRC have to spell out in such fine detail what should be the government’s standard practice? That is because the government’s approach is little more than expensive lip-service. It is about the cheap announceable in the media and the media photo shoot rather than getting it right.

We do not have a government that attacks problems at the source. We have a government that tries to attack problems after the horse has bolted. We continue to have to close lakes in summer because of blue-green algae. We continue to see our waterways overrun with exotic fish species. We continue to see rubbish pile up in and around our lakes, and we have the community groups in a state of desperation over water quality.

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