Water Journal : Current May 2017
www.awa.asn.au 40 Urban growth A tale of two cities By David Barbeler WITH AUSTRALIA’S POPULATION SET TO DOUBLE IN THE NEXT HALF CENTURY, SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE’S WATER INDUSTRIES HAVE THEIR WORK CUT OUT FOR THEM. L ike a pair of pimple-faced, gangly teenagers, Sydney and Melbourne are set to experience growing pains that will test existing infrastructure like never before. No sector will tell their coming-of-age story better than the water industry, which will need to cater for an extra million thirsty mouths per decade over the next 40 years. As of March 2017, water levels in Sydney and Melbourne dipped to 85.9% and 67.3% of capacity respectively. Last decade’s Millennium Drought brought those numbers to a critically low 32% and 25.5% before the skies opened up. An extra million people – or two or three – in a similar scenario, combined with increasing temperatures, has the potential to spell disaster. IN THE WORKS Fortunately, double the people doesn’t equate to double the water usage. “Demand from our water supply system is projected to rise from around 530 billion litres per year to 740 billion litres per year by 2064,” said Sydney Water’s Principal Analyst Marcia Dawson. “For comparison purposes, total water demand in 1990-91 was 665 billion litres a year, and there were around 1.2 million fewer people in Sydney than now.” This reduction is due to a range of factors, including more apartment living, improved appliance efficiency, requirements for water-efficient housing, changes to industry, increased recycling and the ongoing success of education campaigns since the Millennium Drought. For example, Melbourne Water reintroduced a voluntary water efficiency program called Target 155 just last year. “The average water consumption in Australia is around 200 litres per day per person,” said Sandra Dodds, chief executive of urban infrastructure for Broadspectrum. “But where there have been challenges around water, we’ve seen that we can reduce that to 100 litres a day through innovative water-saving solutions, or reviewing usage patterns and influencing a better usage approach.” However, educating the public is far from a silver bullet. “As populations continue to increase, more investment will be needed, particularly in ‘manufactured’ water sources such as recycled water and desalination, to supplement supply,” Dawson said.
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