What Council is doing to save water
What Council is doing
Council has adopted a target to reduce potable or drinking water use by 40% from the baseline year of 2000/2001 by 2015. At the end of financial year 2010/11, Council had reduced actual potable (or mains) water consumption from 334 million litres at 2000/2001 to 137 million litres. This is a reduction of 59% meaning that Council is currently exceeding its 2015 target.
While the extent of reduction in water use during 2010/11 (33 million litres) was very encouraging, some strenuous qualifications need to be noted.
Firstly, Collingwood Leisure Centre was closed for much of 2010/11 and accounted for a fairly significant drop in actual water use.
Secondly, in terms of financial years, 2010/11 was very wet with 949mm recorded for the 12 months as the 13 year drought broke around mid-year followed by an exceptionally wet summer – the very time when irrigation water is most used on open space areas – Yarra’s largest user of water.
Thirdly, State Government imposed water restrictions were operational in some form for all of 2010/11 and have only come back to Stage 1 in early 2011/12. Therefore continued water savings were effectively enforced during 2010/11.
These factors, and especially the exceptional summer rainfall of 2010/11, have combined to leverage the very significant savings in potable water use. However, the combination of these two circumstances – heavy summer rain and water restrictions - are unlikely to repeated in years to come.
Therefore the challenge for future years will be to sustain these gains and to try to drive further savings so that both the 2015 target is achieved and that Council pushes on with additional savings through more efficient use of water and through seeking out cost-effective alternative supplies.
Council has also committed through its Environment Strategy to having 10% of council water requirements supplied by alternative water sources, with 25% by 2015. The main alternative water source being pursued is stormwater as recycled (treated waste water) water is only available at locations distant from City of Yarra (at Werribee, Epping and Chrinside Park) which implies very high transport costs (and emissions) and therefore expensive water which erodes savings from potable water reductions.
The achievement of 25% from alternative sources (ie. stormwater mainly) by 2015 will be a significant challenge. At present Council has only one major stormwater-supplied storage tank at Edinburgh Gardens holding 200,000 litres. This storage is expected to replace about 6 million litres of potable water for irrigation of the Gardens, or about 50% of its current use. A number of other similar facilities will need to be constructed and as significant capital costs are associated with capture, treatment and storage of stormwater for re-use, grants from other levels of government will be sought to attempt to offset these capital costs.
Council’s water saving actions in recent years have included:
- Installing rainwater tanks at Council’s Depots and other Council facilities
- Installing water saving devices at Council’s child care centres, leisure centres and town halls
- Installing a 200,000 litre tank as part of the raingarden project at Edinburgh Gardens to assist with irrigation of mature trees
- Recycling water at the Collingwood Leisure Centre with different streams of waste water being collected, treated and returned to the pool, as well as a 100,000 litre rainwater tank as part of the new building works
- Installing computerised irrigation to improve efficiency of watering systems in parks and gardens
- Using mulch to maintain moisture in garden beds and around trees
- Improving the turf cover on major playing fields, especially with use of warm season grasses needing less summer irrigation
- Undertaking an extensive decompaction and aeration program of many reserves and sports grounds to allow better water filtration and absorption
- Installing street tree pits (eg. Smith Street, Fitzroy) to enable selected street trees to be irrigated from stormwater flowing along the kerb and channel
- Continuing to work with water retailers and Melbourne Water to explore opportunities for projects that deliver replacement of potable water by stormwater for open space irrigation and also seek to improve the quality of stormwater.
A decade on from the 2000/2001 baseline year, the cost savings to Council from reduction of potable water use are substantial. If Council was still using 334 million litres per year, in today’s prices, it would have paid an extra $390,434 in financial year 2010/11 for that water.
Water Management Officer
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