Who owns the water?

When you consider that water covers 75 per cent of the earth and yet only 1 per cent is drinkable – you start to realise how precious a resource it is, not just for human survival but for the local ecosystems it supports.

The World Bank estimates the value of the world water market to be as much as $800 billion. And around the world, companies are staking their claim in this massive bourgeoning market. Bottled water companies are at the fore. The price of bottled water exceeds the price of petrol in developed nations such as the United States and Australia - raising questions about the true value of water and how communities who provide this water - benefit from its sale?

How do we protect our local ecosystems and environments?

The fact that water can be taken by governments or the private sector, is pushing people to begin to think about the need to protect their local ecosystems and environments.

Today, people view water as a resource owned by them, they do not see it as a commodity. As a result communities want to know where their water comes from, where their water is going and what is done with it.

So what are we doing?

In Australia, Governments focus single mindedly on getting essential services to new homes and blocks – connecting water, transport, and energy infrastructure - pushing land release to keep up with housing demand. Water is usually pumped long distances to cater for the needs of growing communities.

The days of just servicing land with an essential service as we are seeing now - are over. With an educated community who believes water belongs to them – more will need to be done to keep water in its original ecosystem and to get the maximum value from it.

Keep it in the community!

When it comes to storm water we already use natural systems to retain and clean storm water. Detention ponds and swales on new developments and in urban settings already reduce organics and pollutants such as phosphorous and nitrogen – preventing algal blooms and keeping water in its local environment.

Why can’t we take a broader approach to our local water ecosystems and include all water such as sewage, recycled water, groundwater and rainwater? That could mean mandating for recycled water use, rainwater tanks, local water bores, and other local water innovations.

Lets not keep sending our water and wastewater thousands of kilometers to outfalls such as at Sydney’s Malabar or North Head.

It’s our water – don’t let others take it!

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.

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