Water Journal : Water Journal November 2011
water NOVEMBER 2011 77 greenhouse emissions • Providing community education for water conservation and efficiency, water recycling and cleaner production. • Minimising water losses and infiltration through our infrastructure. • Working with key stakeholders in the planning process to ensure integrated water cycle solutions form part of all new growth areas. The development of Western Water's climate change adaptation program represents a challenge for the business. We have to plan for a future which is uncertain. In fact, adaptation can be defined as risk management under uncertainty. There is a wide range of possible climate impacts and we do not know exactly how much temperature will increase, when they will increase, how much water inflows will vary, and when. We also do not know what the scale and nature of future extreme weather events will be. Importantly, climate change is not expected to be smooth or linear; rather, it will be characterised by abrupt changes and extreme events, which are hard to predict or manage. These challenges will require a different approach to water supply planning. The traditional planning and decision- making tools that we have used will not work for us in dealing with this uncertainty. Those traditional tools work best when there is only one or a few possible different scenarios to plan for, and when the differences between competing scenarios are relatively small. This means we need to develop new tools that allow us to make robust decisions -- that is, decisions which will work across a wide range of possible outcomes. It also means that we will have to be ready to change our strategies and plans quickly as events unfold. This will require us to work closely with the community and our stakeholders. What the Future Holds Western Water will undergo significant change in the next couple of decades, given the opportunities to create smart, sustainable water solutions that are resilient to climate variability and effectively minimise the carbon footprint. The two outstanding features of the region are: 1. It is one of the fastest-growing urban areas in Australia, with the new suburb of Toolern alone expected to absorb an extra 60,000 residents by 2030 -- equivalent to an extra 22 new people a day. 2. The region is one of the lowest-rainfall areas in Victoria, with less than 500mm falling in an average year. In 2009, rainfall was just 250mm. The new Toolern Precinct requires working with key stakeholders to develop a secure water future for this growth area which will include stormwater capture and recycled water to homes. Western Water sees this as an opportunity to create a "water-neutral" suburb of the future and a showcase for integrated water cycle management. Toolern will build on our learnings from the award-winning water-sensitive urban designed Eynesbury Township, which has achieved a 50% reduction in potable water use. Toolern will use Eynesbury as a benchmark for improvements and is already the first suburb in Victoria to have integrated water management principles included in its Precinct Structure Plan. Our aim is to work towards 100% net reduction in potable water use -- the first water-neutral suburb in Australia. Add this aspirational goal on water use with Western Water's other key goals of: • 100% water recycling (up to 88% already achieved); • 100% biosolids beneficially reused (achieved); • 100% biogas reused (achieved at the Melton plant); • Net zero emissions (one-third of the way there). I often get asked about the reason for setting aspirational targets. There is some risk in setting easily achievable targets, in that this is exactly what you will get. With aspirational goals, well you just might get there too. Western Water now has a new paradigm for water management called WaterSphere. WaterSphere plays a central part in how we plan our new growth areas as well as work with our existing customer base. Through this approach we are working towards appreciating the true value that water has in creating financially viable and liveable communities. We will be working with our communities not only to be a service provider but a solution provider. This will involve greater collaboration with planning authorities and land developers, to identify integrated water cycle management solutions with the notion that "all water is good water" to create greater customer value. Concluding Remarks There is no more important issue for our community's future than the secure supply of water. This is especially important in a time of high population growth and climate variability. Western Water aims to be a leader, not just within the water industry, but for the whole community, within the water/ energy nexus space. Our vision: To be a leading service provider working with our community towards a sustainable future. To achieve it we must invest in sustainable water management for the future. To break down the water energy nexus into some of its simplest forms could mean: 1. A portfolio approach to water management is required -- the same as an investment portfolio, but each supply source has its own unique costs and risks. Understand and update your portfolio regularly, particularly from an energy use perspective; 2. Don't treat all water to its highest standard for all uses; a risk based, fit-for-purpose approach is required; 3. Don't ignore low-tech solutions. Use Mother Nature (UV/gravity/soils/nutrients etc) to advantage. As examples, Western Water has replaced our largest sewerage pump station with a gravity sewer, and used reflective paints and ventilation to minimise temperature on pump stations etc, with significant benefits; 4. Create your own energy. Use biogases, solar, heat, turbines and so on, for your own purposes; 5. Create (and use) your own offsets. Consider all potential offset sources such as any plantations, VEECs, solar or green energy opportunities. The Authors Les McLean (email: les.mclean@ westernwater.com.au) is General Manager, Commercial Services, Western Water, Sunbury, VIC. Anna May is Acting Manager, Renewable Resources, Western Water. References Australian Energy Regulator, 2009: 'State of the Energy Market 2009', O'Young, Edwin (2009). Not just a carbon hit on electricity prices. Source: Port Jackson Partners. VWIA, 2008 (Victorian Water Industry Association): Energy and Greenhouse Data.
Water Journal December 2011
Water Journal September 2011