Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Victorians face harsh water restrictions in n -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Victorians face harsh water restrictions in new year

Reporter: Ben Knight

BEN KNIGHT: Steve Robinson is on water patrol. He's one of 140 officers around Melbourne whose sole
job is to try and catch people breaking water restrictions.

STEVE ROBINSON, WATER PATROL: We're looking for people that are watering their lawns or washing
their cars at home or might be using spray nozzles instead of trigger nozzles.

BEN KNIGHT: Do you go past a bunch of dry nature strips and see a green one and think something's
not right?

STEVE ROBINSON: Well, we do, yeah.

BEN KNIGHT: Until now, the thousand or so people who have been caught out have been warned. Some of
them, up to three times. But from now on, things are going to get a lot tougher.

STEVE ROBINSON: What we've got here is a restriction device, it's a box that goes over the stop tap
and what we do is turn the stop tap down to two litres per minute.

BEN KNIGHT: What does that mean inside the house?

STEVE ROBINSON: Inside the house it means people are not getting showers that they would normally

BEN KNIGHT: Cutting off people's water sounds extreme, but authorities are confident they've got
public support.

KATE VINOT, SOUTH EAST WATER: Anybody who's actually not following those rules is basically being
unfair to the other citizens of Melbourne and therefore we need to have some means to take action
against those people.

BEN KNIGHT: Like many Australian cities, Melbourne is drying up and for a place that prides itself
on its parks and gardens, it's been tough. On the whole, Melburnians have accepted the
restrictions, but they're being tested.

LOUISE ASHER, VICTORIAN SHADOW WATER MINISTER: I think Melburnians have had a great amount of
goodwill in saving water but I think, with the Government threatening to introduce some very
draconian measures, that the Government's at risk of eroding community goodwill.

STEVE BRACKS, VICTORIAN PREMIER: I refute the suggestion that householders do not want to play
their part. They do.

BEN KNIGHT: On New Year's Day stage three begins. By the end of summer it is expected to go to
stage four; that means a complete ban on watering gardens and sports grounds and washing cars. And
anyone who chooses to break the rules faces having their home's water supply reduced to a trickle.

ROSS YOUNG, WATER SERVICES ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA: People are genuinely frightened we're going to
run out of water, that's why there's community goodwill to actually conserve water and why those
who don't follow the rules really need to be brought into line. That's only fair.

BEN KNIGHT: But even with the tighter restrictions the situation is getting worse. This week
Melbourne was told its main storage, the Thompson Dam, will be down to 20 per cent of capacity at
the end of summer. That wasn't supposed to happen until May. Around the country the picture is the

ROSS YOUNG: If you go back to early 2001 Warragamba Dam, which supplies Sydney, was at somewhere
about 84 per cent capacity. Now it is down around 37 per cent. Wivenhoe, which supplies Brisbane
and much of southeast Queensland, in 2000 it was up at 92 per cent and now it's down to 23 per

BEN KNIGHT: In the cities, the effects of the drought are everywhere, and not just on the nature
strips and lawns. In the worst-hit areas, the state of sports grounds is so bad that the cricket
season has had to be cut short and next year's football season has been postponed. You know the
drought's bad when the cities start running out of water, and this is one of the worst in living
memory. Some are calling a once in a thousand-year drought, meaning that while it's bad, it is just
part of the normal cycle of weather. But the CSIRO is warning that climate change will make events
like this more frequent. Now Governments are being criticised for being caught short.

ROSS YOUNG: It's quite easy to be wise in retrospect. I would argue you needed the wisdom of
Solomon to predict this drought was going to be so severe.

BEN KNIGHT: But now it's here, the search for solutions is facing the problems of bickering between
state and federal Governments. Today the Federal Agriculture Minister floated the idea of a
referendum to allow the Commonwealth to take control of Australia's major rivers away from the

PETER MCGAURAN, FEDERAL MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE: "The states have patently failed over the years,
despite all of the warnings, to institute practices and to build engineering works that would
secure their long-term future."

BEN KNIGHT: But the Prime Minister wasn't putting his name to it.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: I think Peter was expressing a certain amount of frustration, which I
understand, but my preference in all of these things is for collaboration.

BEN KNIGHT: But he says the NSW Government's opposition to a plan to pipe some of its water into
Queensland wasn't helping.

JOHN HOWARD: All we're doing through the National Water Commission is investigating the possibility
of doing that, yet what is the reaction of the Iemma Government - no, no, you can't touch it. It's
NSW water. Well, it's not NSW water, it's Australian water.

ROSS YOUNG: The solutions will vary from State to State and city to city, depending on a range of
options, but the broad options might be some dams in certain instances, desalination plants,
groundwater resources will be available, water trading.

BEN KNIGHT: Until now, water trading was something that happened between farmers. But now, as
cities like Bendigo and Ballarat dry up, they're looking to buy some of that farm water on the open
market to fill their reservoirs. Not surprisingly, farmers are outraged at the idea. So the
Victorian Government has promised Melbourne won't start buying up that water.

ROSS YOUNG: I can't see that lasting and it is also inconsistent with the National Water
Initiative, which all the states and territories have signed up to, that says you should encourage
water trading generally, and that includes water trading between urban and rural areas. I find it
quite perverse we can trade water from the rural areas to Bendigo and Ballarat, and not Melbourne.

BEN KNIGHT: But if it's going to wash cars and water lawns, the water fight is yet to really begin.

SCOTT BEVAN: Ben Knight with that report.