3 December 2019

Canberra region "strongly urged" to care for water in new conservation campaign

| Genevieve Jacobs
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 Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall, Icon Water CEO Ray Hezkial and Minister Mick Gentleman

Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall, Icon Water MD Ray Hezkial and Minister Mick Gentleman with local schoolchildren at the Care for Water campaign launch. Photos: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

The message about Canberra’s water supply is that this is serious. Despite the enlarged Cotter Dam and a generally responsive population, the devastating long-running drought means water conservation measures are now an urgent priority for the ACT region.

Icon Water, the ACT government and Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council joined forces this week to launch the Care for Water Campaign, asking Canberrans to take personal responsibility for our water consumption for the good of the whole community.

They were accompanied by a bunch of Canberra and district school kids from Gowrie and Kingsford Smith schools and St Gregory’s at Queanbeyan, all of whom had been working on their own water-saving ideas.

Restrictions are already a reality for Braidwood and Bungendore residents. At Braidwood, the Shoalhaven has stopped flowing and the town has 180 days of targeted use left. Stage Two restrictions are attempting to cut use by 25 per cent.

Icon Water: Water Conservation Campaign Launch

Icon Water, the ACT government and Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council joined forces this week to launch the Care for Water Campaign. Photo: Supplied.

Bungendore is supplied by water from bores through fractured rocks. Locals there are on Stage One restrictions for a 10 per cent reduction target. If the current record low inflows continue, restrictions are likely in Canberra by late next year, too.

So what can you do? Plenty, the government and Icon Water suggest.

Icon Water: Water Conservation Campaign Launch

Minister Mick Gentleman urging Canberrans to Care for Water. Photo: Supplied.

“It means thinking about the water use: limit showers to four-minutes, turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, don’t water your garden after rain, ensure that sprinklers only water between 6:00 pm and 9:00 am,” Minister Gentleman said today.

“The extension of the Cotter Dam and the Murrumbidgee to Googong pipeline means that we have good water storage but our levels have gone from 84 per cent to 52 per cent in the ACT. That means we all need to think hard about taking responsibility as the summer months approach.”

Water saving ideas

Water-saving ideas from Kingsford Smith school students.

Icon Water will roll out their water-saving campaign across billboards, bus shelters, on radio and via social media, aiming to get every Canberran saving water wherever possible.

Icon Water Managing Director Ray Hezkial said that while the ACT is relatively blessed with secure water supplies thanks to the community’s investment in the enlarged Cotter Dam, the water utility constantly monitors weather, usage patterns and storage capacity.

“This is a precious finite resource”, he said. “We want everyone to have a conversation with their families about how to save water. If you even turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, that will save up to 32 litres of water.

“We’ve been on permanent conservation measures in the ACT since 2010, so the common-sense rules are already in place.”

Icon Water: Water Conservation Campaign Launch

Ray Hezkial Icon Water MD, discussing water saving tips with the school children. Photo: Supplied.

One of the major communications methods has been Icon Water’s school outreach program. Icon Water’s community engagement officer, Kate Rhook, says that local students visit the Cotter from Year Two to learn about water use and discuss how they’ll save water as part of the school curriculum.

“Some of the kids have brought us in their raindrop promises about how they’ll save water,” she said. Ideas from the students included washing hands in buckets, connecting rinse water to the garden, singing a song to time a short shower and that old favourite from the last big drought, “if it’s yellow let it mellow”.

The raindrop promises were presented to the Legislative Assembly. For more resources on how you can save water at home, go to Icon Water.

How do you save water at your home, work or school?

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The ACT building codes should make it mandatory for all new residences (and commercial buildings too for that matter) to have grey water systems and water harvesting (i.e. water tanks). Some developments do this but that’s at the initiative of the developer not the Government.

If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, let it drown.

After construction of LBG the valves on Scrivener Dam were closed in September 1963 and with the eventual breaking of the 1960-63 drought, the lake reached planned levels in April 1964. So with some decent rain, lake water levels will quickly be restored.

HiddenDragon6:36 pm 04 Dec 19

Better late than never, but this comes after a couple of years of what seemed like studied insouciance on the part of ACT authorities over the realities of our water supply, in the face of unreliable rainfall.

As the (aptly aquatic) old saying goes, it ain’t just a river in Egypt, and in Canberra, it’s far too often denial with a capital D.

Capital Retro9:27 am 05 Dec 19

You mention Egypt where most of the underground water has been harvested already and across northern Africa so much that soon olive trees will only grow on the northern side of the Mediterranian Sea.

It’s a consequence of overpopulation which Australia is about to face.

Capital Retro9:18 am 04 Dec 19

“There’s no need to flush the toilet every visit.”

That’s if it is yellow? There is that jingle which says “if it’s yellow, let it mellow……” My doctor recently said “If it’s yellow you are dehydrated”.

Seriously though, while our water storages are diminishing some attention must be given by the governmnet to building a new sewerage treatment facilty as the the current one has reached its design capability. It will cost billions but of course we need to cover Canberra with trolley tracks, poles and wire first.

Where have you got the information that the current sewage treatment facility is at capacity?
That surely would be in the news?

Capital Retro9:24 am 05 Dec 19

It was built to service a population of 400,000. I don’t think the government want to know about it at the moment.

Got a link for that?

Always enjoy reading some of the comments on these articles – give a good giggle. Just for future notes:
– We are on a river system (the Murrumbidgee)
– Water prices are not higher ‘the less you use’ – we have a two tier structure with a higher rate for higher usage.
-Trying to retrofit a greywater system for reuse is quite expensive (and noting the water that goes down the drain here is reused anyway – it is treated and flows down the river from the Lower Molonglo treatment plant into NSW). It should however be a clear part and requirement of every new build.
– RCGC pays the water abstraction charge on the water they take from the lake, like anyone else that takes water for non-potable use in the Territory.
– Private water tanks are one of the most expensive ways to supplement the water supply https://www.icrc.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/1246492/Report_6_of_2012_July_2012.pdf (Yes its a bit old but still a decent indicator of relative costs).

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