Friday, October 22, 2010

A better solution for water

Here is a copy of our domestic water bill for 2 February 2010.

We have 23,000 litres of water tanks in Surrey Hills and are almost completely self-sufficient for water - as you can see by the information on this bill, including:

  • 4 litres per person per day for November to Jan 2010 (compared with the government target of 155)
  • 0 liters per person per day over the periods may to October 2009.
Yet the Victorian Minister Tim Holding has stated that "water tanks are not an effective solution" and Premier John Brumby as stated that "water tanks would have higher carbon emissions than the desalination plant".  

Neither have responded to my letters informing them that they are wrong on both counts - despite me providing evidence that proves my point.

The Brumby government panicked during 2008-2009 when the drought was severe, and threw 10 years of water strategy and community consultation focused on recycling water and conserving it in the bin.

Instead the Brumby government has:
  • Built the north-south pipeline at considerable cost that takes water from the deprived Murray Darling basin.
  • Commissioned the world's largest desalination plant which will cost around $5 billion to build, and residents will have to pay the private consortium "returns" even if they don't produce water
There was no community consultation about either project and the huge environmental impacts of both have been basically ignored. "Parliamentary rule" from Spring Street is not democracy - its dodgy business deals that deliver really bad outcomes that we all have to end up paying for decades to come.

If the government had commissioned recycling and storm water capture instead, we could have avoided the expense and environmental impacts of both these projects.



Ben Courtice said...

In addition to your quite convincing appraisal of the situation, I think that most of the anticipated increases in water charges are to go on the fixed part of your water bill not the usage part - meaning people like yourself will still end up with increased bills to pay for all these ridiculous projects.

Grant said...

You are correct Ben.
It costs water suppliers a certain amount to provide water (infrastructure / administrative costs), and part of that cost is offset by the water usage charges. Therefore if you reduce the amount of water usage income, then they have to increase the fixed parts of your bill to cover the shortfall. If you look at Peter's account he still had to pay around $96. With my last account, the water charge was around $30, but I still had to pay around $96 fixed charges.
I suppose I can extend this out further by looking at how many quarters I need to cover before I break even on a $3,000 (plus loss of interest at 5%) water tank system (over 100 quaters or 25 years at todays costs).
It will probably stay the same as water usage drops, and fixed charges escalate to cover the new infrastructure.
I installed a small tank to cover washing machine, and garden usage, but set a maximum budget of $700 which was achieveable.

Peter Campbell said...


You are correct. Increased to the fixed charges on our water bills will pay for the desalination plant, including payments to investors even if no desal water is produced.

We will have to pay for this - even though we won't use any desal water. The Brumby government has completely abandoned the principle of "user pays".

Grant, if 600,000 people do what we have done, we would save over 150 gigalitres of water per years (the same amount the desal plant will produce).

So savings don't just equate to payback on your water bill - they should include avoiding the $17b cost over 28 years for desal.