Now that the dams are almost full again – lets not be short-sighted and demand the closure of other key water sources, like the Kurnell desalination plant.
The fact is we need everything we can get. It’s been 14 years since Warragamba Dam was at 100 per cent – and in that time we have sucked the Dam dry with our increasing water demands and our lack of alternative water supplies.
With an eye on the future, its clear increased growth, aging centralised water infrastructure and the prospect of dry times ahead - will put us back in the same situation.
We need more than desal and dams – we need many more localised secure water systems that harvest multiple water sources - recycling them for multiple uses at a community level.
We can no longer afford to be locked into a two-pronged solution: Dam or Desal.
A diversified approach future-proofs us from more extreme weather events along with the prospect of prolonged dry and wet periods, and facilitates new innovations – that can easily be incorporated into local communities, such as recycled water, stormwater and rainwater harvesting.
Rather than moth-balling the desal plant, we should continue to use it at reduced volumes. Sydney Water have done the right thing by negotiating a flexible operating regime for the Desal. Output has already been reduced by 64 per cent of capacity in anticipation of continued rainfall and water flowing into our catchments. On the other hand the facility is able to be easily augmented to double the capacity should future requirements demand it.
Our challenge is to provide many other water sources so that we don’t use up contingency water capacity like Desal and then expect more.
A focus at the local community level can give us the new water sources we are looking for.
In the meantime we can put to good use the “free water” now flowing from the dams: Let the excess water assist us in solving the problems of our polluted and overused waterways and rivers so that we are in much better shape when the next drought occurs.
Australia can never have too much water.
Terry Leckie is one of Australia’s leading water industry experts and a passionate advocate of water reform, championing key changes to legislation and regulation.
Terry is also Founder and CEO of Water Factory Company, Australia’s first private water utility which is creating affordable and sustainable smart water networks. More of his blogs can be found at Water Spectator.