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Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Page: 100

Mr GEORGANAS (7:50 PM) —I too rise to speak on the Water Bill 2007. Water is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most precious resources, as we have all heard during this debate. Labor supports the great need for Commonwealth leadership in water policy, especially when waterways cross state boundaries. Unfortunately, it has taken 11 years for this government to take the next step in addressing the problems of the Murray-Darling Basin. In addition to this delayed response by the Commonwealth, the government, now that it has decided to take some action, has not taken it upon itself to consult enough with the state governments and other stakeholders over the contents of the bill.

Another issue that is not addressed in the legislation is the allocation of water licences in the Murray-Darling Basin. There needs to be a full implementation of the National Water Initiative, agreed on in 2004, to help us manage our national water supply. Water is our life source and it is vital to the survival of our country. I feel that there is a consensus among Australians that the Murray is one of the country’s most vital water channels, providing water to thousands of households every day.

The Murray is in dire need of attention. The Murray-Darling Basin experiences some of the most variable rainfall in the world and it is subject to times of great floods, while at other times the basin suffers from drought. However, the basin has not been subject to the conditions it is currently experiencing as a result of, for example, South Australia’s once-in-100-years drought. Within South Australia we have the collective asset of the Lower Lakes, the Murray Mouth and the Coorong, South Australia’s highly valued coastal waterway that is supposed to be an essential migratory bird habitat and has been central to the reproductive cycle of fish life for an aeon. Despite the push by the South Australian government to manage existing water resources and ensure that current water resources are used wisely, we cannot make it rain and we cannot dictate where the rainfall should land. This is why the management of water even at a local level is so important to saving water within my state of South Australia and monitoring the water that is drawn from the River Murray.

In Adelaide, the metropolitan Adelaide stormwater reuse project, which has been funded by the Commonwealth, the state and the private sector in South Australia, reuses water in the western suburbs. Man-made wetlands are designed to act as filters for urban and polluted stormwater that would normally run off into the Gulf St Vincent, polluting the gulf and killing off seagrass, which is one of the breeding grounds for many fish in the Gulf St Vincent. This initiative is a great way for the western suburbs in Adelaide to save water and to assist the environment. This project alone is set to save 1,000 megalitres of water a year by using stormwater to replace water previously drawn from underground water supplies. This pre-treated water will also be pumped back into the underground water supplies beneath Adelaide.

Many schools within my electorate of Hindmarsh are also becoming very water conscious. Schools are administering waterless urinals, water-saving toilets, water-saving taps, installing constant flow valves in bathrooms, fixing leaking taps and making other water dispensers more efficient. Schools are developing water friendly gardens and playing an active role in monitoring the use of water around school grounds. Rainwater tanks are also used by schools throughout the electorate to supply water to school facilities. We should applaud these schools and their efforts to try and save water. Every drop of water that is saved by these schools is less water coming out of the Murray, and that plays a huge role in saving our most precious resource, especially in a time when water is as scarce as we have seen over the last few years.

Some schools and community organisations who have introduced various water-saving measures are, for example in my electorate, the Star of the Sea, Lady Gowrie Child Centre Inc., Plympton Primary School, Sacred Heart College Senior, St Peter’s Woodlands Grammar School, Lockleys Primary School, Edwardstown Primary School, St Michael’s College, St George College and Thebarton Senior College. Every facility is taking steps towards or has already introduced water-saving projects on their premises.

Local councils also play a big role within the electorate of Hindmarsh. They are also doing their part in trying to conserve water. The City of West Torrens and the City of Holdfast Bay both have water-saving projects in place. In the City of West Torrens their project will save mains, bore and reclaimed water through a strategic improvement in irrigation control and efficiency at various locations. These water-saving initiatives will benefit 22 ovals and reserves through irrigation controls, saving water that otherwise would be drawn from the River Murray.

These improved water controls will also utilise data from weather stations, which will analyse variances in rainfall and evapotranspiration rates, and adjust watering times to prevent wastage. In addition to this, systems experiencing leaks will be automatically shut down to prevent further wastage. These improvements will be complemented at 11 sites through the replacement of three hectares of irrigated turf with biodiversity plantings to minimise watering requirements. This project will save 47,199,000 litres of water each year.

The City of Holdfast Bay has also employed several water-saving initiatives that include the installation of rainwater tanks to store rainwater that is collected from the roof of the City of Holdfast Bay Civic Centre. The collected water will be used to flush the toilets. These changes will save 132,600 litres of water each year which, as I said earlier, would otherwise be water drawn from the River Murray. Another project that is currently being looked at by various different groups in my electorate involves extending the reuse of treated wastewater from the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant and harvesting stormwater from within the area bounded approximately by the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant catchment. The reused water from the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant and the stormwater would then be available for irrigation at an alternative location.

Glenelg and the Adelaide parklands were found to be the most concentrated regions for significant reuse potential. The project is set to reuse approximately five gigalitres of water annually. This project has great potential and it attacks the issue of water management directly, by saving water that would otherwise be pumped out into the sea and the Gulf St Vincent. Currently large amounts of the treated effluent from the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant are discharged into the Gulf St Vincent, killing off the seagrass and destroying marine life in our gulf. The gulf is adversely impacted on by the 174,000 megalitres annually of nutrient rich stormwater surging down from the Adelaide Hills and over the Adelaide flats into the gulf, carrying all the pollutants that destroy the environment within the gulf.

The prevention of run-off from the Adelaide Plains is probably the greatest South Australian environmental challenge facing our coast, the residents of metropolitan Adelaide and our governments in this and the next decade. The ongoing construction of wetlands in Adelaide’s northern suburbs—adjacent to the Parafield Airport and beyond—and associated aquifer storage and replenishment initiatives, of which there are now about two dozen in the greater Adelaide area, have been encouraging for quite a few years. We should take a closer look at this as a substantial element of our future supply of water. In areas other than the northern suburbs there has been substantial energy applied to similar projects, such as within the Patawalonga catchment at Morphettville, which I have mentioned previously.

We must support these initiatives. We must support initiatives within all of metropolitan Adelaide and within all of Australia because, sourcing investment from wherever they can get it, community groups do their best. As I said earlier, in the southern suburbs—including northern Adelaide, the Barossa catchment and the Onkaparinga catchment respectively—aquifer storage capacities, in places, are expected to exceed the supply of available stormwater. A tremendous amount of highly positive work can be done in these catchments to improve the health of the environment of the Gulf St Vincent and to secure a substantial supply of water for many years to come, at least for industrial, horticultural and recreational use and even for human consumption. I also support the use of the aquifer storage and replenishment schemes being pursued throughout the Adelaide Plains wherever stormwater and land with access to the suitable aquifer are available. In addition, there is also a substantial capacity within my own electorate of Hindmarsh, whether it be through utilising the first or second tertiary sedimentary aquifers.

The strategy of minimising unnatural stormwater flow into the gulf is advancing steadily in terms of outcomes in some areas and continued research in others. This strategy will require additional investment from all players: local industry, local government, state government and, of course, the federal government. I am sure that for this investment the rewards will be—maybe now and certainly in the not too distant future—well worth the time, energy and opportunity costs that they require. Labor certainly believes so, and it is concerned and determined to make Australia as a nation more water savvy, more water wise and more water secure because, without water, we cannot sustain our future. We need to work collectively with the states to ensure good outcomes and a good supply of water to ensure that our nation continues.