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Adelaide has no need for water
restrictions, according to
Trevor Hill, the president and
chief executive of leading US water
recycling firm Global Water.
"It s incongruous to have water
restrictions on one hand, and see
waste water being discharged into
the sea on the other," Mr Hill told
The Independent Weekly during his
visit to Adelaide. "You can avoid
Global Water operates out of
Phoenix Arizona, a city of 1.5
million people with less than half
Adelaide s annual rainfall and no
Mr Hill met several times with
Water Security Commissioner
Robyn McLeod, who supports
Adelaide s water restrictions.
Mr Hill s message to arid cities
was simple: "Water is water".
"Partially treated waste water
can be used for industrial or park
uses and sufficiently treated water
can used for drinking purposes,"
"There is no point to making
water to Perrier drinking standard
and then using it to water parks
or golf courses. Desalinated water
is at least 10 times as expensive to
produce as recycled water."
He questioned the belief that
desalinating water is the sole
answer to shortages.
"Saudi Arabia uses 1.5 million
barrels of oil per day at its desalina-
tion plants," Mr Hill said.
His concept is Total Water
Management, saying cities such as
Phoenix and Adelaide should plan
water infrastructure and water uses
over 100 years.
Under Arizona state laws, prop-
erty developers must demonstrate
that an assured water supply will be
physically, legally, and continuously
available for the next 100 years
before they can sell parcels of land.
"Innovation is driven by three
factors; scarcity, policy and price,"
"SA can lead the world in scarcity
Comparing Adelaide s situation
with the River Murray to that
which confronted Phoenix when
the Colorado River was in crisis
because of overuse and a 12-year
drought, he said the two rivers had
been hamstrung by definitions of
legal water use that were made
when river flows were 30 per cent
"Shares of who did what with
water were defined when the rivers
had much greater flows. As those
flows changed, allocations did not."
Arizona, however, has coped
remarkably well with the lack
of water. History shows major
similarities between the issues
facing Arizona and SA. Seven US
states draw on the 2330km Colorado
River and in 1922 they signed a
compact governing the allocation
of the river s resources.
Arizona s current administra-
tion, however, has a very different
outlook to South Australia s.
Phoenix first implemented a
formal water conservation program
in 1982 that included a series of
water efficiency enhancements to
reduce water consumption.
"Water efficiency measures
included retrofit of existing plumb-
ing with water-saving devices, a
mail order retrofit program, plumb-
ing code enforcement, improved
turf management, limitations on
lawn size, improved turf irrigation
management, and secondary school
water efficiency education," the
Consumption dropped progres-
sively from1980 to 2005. Phoenix
developers were required to pay a
full cost recovery "water resources
acquisition fee" of around $A3000
for each new housing lot -- a cost
that was passed on to buyers.
The money raised is required by
law to be spent on capital infrastruc-
ture to benefit the development.
SA s Water Security
Commissioner, Robyn McLeod told
The Independent Weekly a similar
concept was being considered for
"The Department of Planning
and Local Government is currently
drafting legislation or regulations
to mandate water-sensitive urban
design standards by 2013," she said.
"Developers will be required to
bear the cost of these extras and
will then pass it onto the buyer.
"We won t be telling developers
what to do -- we ll leave that up to
them -- but the development will
have to meet a certain level of
water and energy efficiency. We
don t know yet how much extra that
will add to the cost of new housing
But on water restrictions, Ms
McLeod s view differed vastly from
Mr Hill s.
"What Mr Hill says is very
valid, but that s absolutely not the
evidence here," she said.
"When the river dried up in
2006, nobody was prepared for that
and it was water restrictions that
got us and Victoria through," Ms
McLeod said. "We achieved quite
substantial reductions in water use
in that period."
Ms McLeod did concede that
there had been no increase in water
consumption since water restric-
tions had been lifted.
Last year Salisbury Council chief
executive Stephen Hains told a
national local government confer-
ence that SA didn t really have a
"Very good quality aquifers lie
beneath Adelaide that presently
contain some 18,000GL of variable
quality water," Mr Hains said.
"While Adelaide consumes a little
over 200GL every year and draws
on average around 80Gl of that
from the River Murray, some 160GL
still flows off the city every year in
stormwater runoff and a further
70GL in wastewater," he said.
"Quite apart from the damage
this does to the marine environ-
ment and the River Murray, it seems
a dreadful waste of potentially
He said metropolitan Adelaide
could capture at least 106GL
from surface streams, 50GL from
recycling wastewater and thereby
reduce Adelaide s total take on the
River Murray to zero.
Perhaps Trevor Hill was right:
Adelaide has lots of potential to
be innovative in water security.
Potential, however, means "capable
of being, but not yet in existence".
May 28 - June 3, 2010
The Independent Weekly
Water on the brain
The Lower Lakes: high and dry.
Photo: Kate Elmes
Nary a drop
in the bucket
South Australia is to get just
a fraction of the water to
the Lower Murray that was
promised by Labor during the
state election campaign.
The executive director of
the Murray Darling Basin
Authority's River Murray Water,
David Dreverman, told a
parliamentary committee in
Canberra on Wednesday that
the Lower Lakes would get just
200 gigalitres, including water
bought by the Commonwealth.
He said only a small part
of the massive Queensland
floods this year would eventu-
ally flow into the lower reaches
of the Murray.
"The most striking thing
is that it will fall well short of
what the Premier promised
during the election campaign,"
said committee member and
SA Liberal senator Simon
-- Hendrik Gout
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