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Monday, 6 April 2009

Water efficiency has become a lifestyle

It's a significant day for my part of the world: for the first time in a hundred months our regional water storage capacity is above 50%. At its lowest in 2007 we had only 16.7% and the government was seriously considering the need to truck or ship drinking water in to sustain the roughly two million people in the immediate area.

Thankfully that worst-case scenario never eventuated, and there have been a number of rain events that have brought the levels up bit by bit. Most interesting, though, has been the success of water conservation programs.

Under the most severe restrictions residents were urged to target an average per-capita water use of 140 litres each day - an enormous reduction from previous norms of around 300. By the time dam levels rose to 40% in July last year, we had stayed below "Target 140" for 52 consecutive weeks. Consumption dropped to as low as 112 litres per person today in one week near the end of that period.

Reaching the 40% storage level was the trigger for easing of restrictions and the revision of our target to 170 instead of 140. And what do you suppose happened to our water consumption?

I've trawled through the weekly press releases to obtain the reported usage stats since Target 140 was introduced almost exactly two years ago and graphed them against the target at the time. Blue line shows water consumption per person per day against the red line which is the target in place at the time: 140 and 170 respectively. There are 66 weeks reported for Target 140 and 32 for Target 170, both with a couple of weeks gap over the New Year breaks.

Visually, you might think that with the relaxed restrictions our water use went up dramatically. But in fact, the averages for each target period are 131.8 and 138.3 respectively - still under 140 even with the higher target!

Very shortly we'll be operating under a Target 200 regime. It's my hope that Brisbane residents have taken the water conservation message to heart and will continue to keep their consumption well under the nominal targets.

Because despite all the good news, our State Government still wants to dam the Mary River and is building desalination plants that will be powered by burning coal.

Oh well, it's a start.

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