Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Ecologically sustainable development for water quality - the challenge



Download PDFDownload PDF

; ; JAt>

Speech by the»Hon. Roe Kelly, HP Minister for the Art»/ Sport# the Environment end Territories

Ecologically Sustainable Development For Wate Quality - The Challenge

Friday 4 December 1992, Adelaide

Introduction

I am of the view that the protection and enhancement of Australia 1s water resources, is at the top of the list of environmental issues facing.Australia over the next ten y e a r s . · ·

As the world's driest populated continent, w to use our water wisely. in the relatively

period since European occupancy, our streams

e need

br ie f and

rivers have been subjected to. major environmental changes and are suffering from a broad range of adverse human impacts. *

many of

aste ana

eve we

tiding .

tralia, elp but

Over the last 200 years we have contaminated our waterways with industrial and chemical w it is unfortunate that many of us still be 1 i

can solve.our sewage effluent problems by b.u longer pipes into our oceans .

If we examine particular problems around Aus some .of which are being 'tackled, we .cannot h be. alarmed.

' ■ ■ ■ ' ' ■ ■ ' . ’ · ■ . -

H e r e i n S o u t h A u s t r a l i a - w h e r e y o u a r e s o d e p e n d e n t

o n t h e R i v e r M u r r a y f o r w a t e r s u p p l y , y o u a t

d i r e c t l y a f f e c t e d b y i t s p r o b l e m s - s a l i n i t y

t u r b i d i t y a n d o f c o u r s e n u t r i e n t s . V i r t u a l l y t h e

e n t i r e M u r r a y D a r l i n g b a s i n is . a f f e c t e d b y tjhes'e

p r o b l e m s t o a g r e a t e r o r l e s s e r d e g r e e .

commonwealth parliamentary library micah

K n o w i n g t h a t t h e p r o b l e m s a r e c a u s e d b y :

u n s u s t a i n a b l e f o r m s o f l a n d u s e , s e w a g e i n p u t s , , f l o w d i v e r s i o n a n d n a t u r a l l y h i g h l e v e l s o f p h o s p h o r u s i n s o m e s o i l s a n d r o c k s i s o n l y t h e b e g i n n i n g .

K n o w l e d g e w i t h o u t a p p l i c a t i o n i s w o r t h l e s s , i w e m u s t a c c e l e r a t e w h a t w e a r e d o i n g t o m a n a g e t h e p r o b l e m .

. . ' ' ■ i ' ■

T h e n e e d f o r a c t i o n i s u r g e n t . j

W h i c h l e a d s m e t o t h e m a j o r p o i n t I w a n t t o m a k e

t h i s m o r n i n g : water quality is too important an issue to be left to flow, as it has b e e n , through

the cracks in Australian social and political structure·. The problems are too g r e a t , tod far- reaching and too important. T h a t i s w h y w e i n e e d a

n a t i o n a l a p p r o a c h a n d n a t i o n a l l e a d e r s h i p . .

S i n c e b e c o m i n g M i n i s t e r f o r t h e E n v i r o n m e n t i n 19 9 0 , I h a v e d e a l t w i t h m a n y i s s u e s . O f t e n t h e s e i i s s u e s " a r e q u i t e f u n d a m e n t a l t o t h e f u t u r e o f A u s t r a l i a - ' i n d e e d t o t h e f u t u r e o f t h e p l a n e t . ·

I h a v e o f t e n f e l t t h a t a . p a r t i c u l a r i s s u e I w a s c o n c e r n e d a b o u t w a s the m o s t f u n d a m e n t a l - the w o r s t p r o b l e m w e f a c e . : ■ :

But in reality they are all fundamental - arid.all inter-connected. I have c o m e .to appreciate!- that . in the environment (just like, the economy) j everything is connected, everything influences everything else. in. other words we must adopt an integrated approach in the way we manage ourj environment, and in particular our water, resources.

' ..·â– â– · . . I .

’ " ■ ' ■ . ' ' .. ‘ ■ ' |

The management of water quality and quantity!' is inextricably linked to the management of rur,al and

our urban environments. The ills e x p e r i e n c e d in streams and rivers g e ne r a l l y ar i s e from the

catchment, beyond th e. wa te r bo dy itself. 4 !

A us tr al ia surely faces no g r e a t e r di rec t j

en vi r on m e nt a l threat than that caused by some

histo ri ca l agricultural, h o r t i c u l t u r a l and pa s to ra l

practices. These pr o bl em s h a v e .been ca u s e d

way we ma n a g e our land, wa t er and hum a n resoh

Our a bi li ty to care for our e n v i r o n m e n t , to

from u n s u s t a i n a b l e p r ac ti c es to e c o l o g i c a l l y

su st ai na bl e systems will be c ru ci a l to. our a

to feed ourselves, to our fu tu re as an expor

clean and green pro du ce and to ec os y s t e m . j

m a i n t e n a n c e . ' . . !

by the

u r c e s .

shift

b i 1 ity

ter of

We must also focus on our cities, and the demands

that.- more than 80% of A u s t r a l i a n s who li've in

them make on our environm ent . ■ . ! .

Seme of these problems are b e i n g confronted.; The

waste s t r e a m from industry and sewage has been .

lessened since the' 1 97 0 s and a It ho u gh -there ji s still a. long way to go, there is cause for optimism.

H o w e v e ^ u r b a n s t o r m w a t e r , the r e q u i r e m e n t s of sewage

infrastructure, and the q u e s t i o n of ho w t o 1 deal with

n u t r i e n t s , eu tr op h i ca t io n and algal bl o o m s ulust be

addressed. · . '

An o p p o r t u n i t y exists in the a r e a of pollution,

p r e v e n t i o n at the start of the p i p e r a t h e r than '

. · - · ■ ■ ■ ■■■■■·.. i ■

at tempting to deal with the p r o b l e m once it exists

at the end of the pipe. By r e d e s i g n i n g ind ustrial

pr.oces ses·. and systems (i n c l u d i n g a g r i c u l t u r a l s y s t e m s ) , benefits can be d e r i v e d from r e d u c i n g the

consumption of raw materials and minimising eliminating w a s t e . .

or

Clean technologies can ensure that pol lut i onj is cut off· at its source. . Evidence in Australia, ajnd from other countries, indicates that industries tjhat. are implementing cleaner production are reaping the benefits not only in a cleaner environment but also

in dollar terms. .

That is why Senator Button and I have worked

closely with Australia's environment manageir technology companies to m a r k e t ]their product in Australia and overseas. I anv encouraging industries that will help be overcome our . environmental problems, create j o b s a n d earn dollars. ' . ■ . i

so

ent s both

export

Our problems with water quality demonstrate jthe absolute folly of not· assigning a' high priority to ecological systerns . . Doing something about i|t ' ■ involves a real change in the way we think abo.ut the environment and the economy. As far as water is

concerned, I suppose it could be abbreviated in the.

phrase Integrated or Total Catchment Management,' " · ' ■ ‘ ■ - i 1 ■ *

with all that t*e o implies. .

The larger philosophy, the larger change-ofinind-set is Ecologically Sustainable Development, or 2SD.

This philosophy depends on co-operation betv'een the Commonwealth and State Governments, local government and the broad community. .

.1 ■ do not :want to go into a long discussion cif BSD, but it is important to. re-state some of the principles which are obviously relevant to wLater:

. intergenerational e q u i t y ; . .

. the precautionary principle; ■ . · . . . conservation of biodiversity; and . proper valuation of environmental assets . w a ter. '

suc.h as

Therefore, if we are to achieve ESD in water

management it will require national leadership and the co-operation of all levels of, Government .

As Mr Cre.an mentioned yesterday, I col labor him to produce the -National Landcare Progr.aii Commonwealth's National Landcare Program anc. integrated catchment management strategies complement each other to emphasise a whole ecosystems approach which considers · environmental , social and economic goals in land management

The National Water Quality Management Strategy, jointly developed by the Australian and New.Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) and the Australian Water Resources Council (AVvRC) has been developed in a cooperative way, with the policy

objective of "achieving sustainable use of t he nation's water resources by protecting and enhancing their quality while maintaining economic and social development".

ated with

The

State-

This is a fine objective, but. at the end of

these words will count for nothing if result not achieved on the ground . There is alreac

enormous number of reports and a very divers bureaucracy involved in w a t e r - but the resv all of them, including the National Water Qt

the. day s are

y ah

e 1 έ s of

a 1 i t y

Management Strategy (NWQMS-) must be measured cn the g r o u n d . . . !

Another important element of the Strategy is the development of a National Water Quality Monitoring Program. The monitoring of pollutant discharges and water bodies needs to be. improved. Inadequate monitoring makes it difficult to determine liow good

or bad our waters are, whether they are improving or deteriorating and if so where and how and -why. We

must place more emphasis on biological and ecosystem monitoring. . It is staggering how little.we .know about the biological aspects of our waterways. ' ‘ ■ ' " - ■' "

T h e r e c e n t f i n a l i s a t i o n o f t h e I n t e r - g o v e r n m e n t a l

A g r e e m e n t o n t h e E n v i r o n m e n t b u i l d s o n t h e w o r k o f

A N Z E C C . ■ . i .

T h e . A g r e e m e n t e s t a b l i s h e s t h e N a t i o n a l E n v i r o n m e n t

' P r o t e c t i o n A u t h o r i t y ( Ν Ε Ρ Α ) . Ν Ε Ρ Α w i l l c o n s i s t o f

■a C o u n c i l o f M i n i s t e r s n o m i n a t e d b y e a c h s i g n a t o r y

a n d C h a i r e d b y t h e C o m m o n w e a l t h E n v i r o n m e n t ■

M i n i s t e r . ■ · . ' ' ■ · ' . ;

M e a s u r e s t o b e e s t a b l i s h e d b y Ν Ε Ρ Α w i l l i n c l u d e .

s t a n d a r d s f o r a m b i e n t a i r q u a l i t y , a m b i e n t m a r i n e ,

e s t u a r i n e a n d f r e s h w a t e r q u a l i t y . T h e d e v e l o p m e n t

o f u n i f o r m n & t i o n a l w a t e r q u a l i t y s t a n d a r d s

a c o n s i d e r a b l e a d v a n c e , i m p r o v i n g c e r t a i n t y

i n d u s t r y a n d i n c r e a s i n g t h e . e f f i c i e n c y ‘ o f j

e n v i r o n m e n t a l a s s e s s m e n t . p r o c e d u r e s .

w i l l . b e

f o r

I n a p r a c t i c a l s e n s e , t h e S t a t e s a n d T e r r i t o r i e s

w i l l h a v e t h e t a s k o f i m p l e m e n t i n g m o s t o f t h e

d e c i s i o n s o f Ν Ε Ρ Α a n d d e v e l o p i n g a u n i f o r m

l e g i s l a t i v e ■ r e g i m e . . T h r o u g h Ν Ε Ρ Α w e w i l l erjsure.

that sta n d a r d s are developed that are cor.sis

with the.principles, of B S D . ■ .

en t

On the topic of standards, it is important tio note that uniform standards, cannot always apply. It is simply not feasible to implement nationally uniform standards for many components in w a t e r , becaiuse there are wide natural variations in their concentrations across the nation .

For those components for which uniform nat-ic standards are impracticable - nutrients beir in point - there needs to be a consistent ap

to the development and monitoring of environ protection measures in individual catchment.^

nal ’ g a case

proach men t . This

approach may need to be legislatively based jif we are going to achieve compliance.

Earlier this year I asked the Commonwealth . Environment Protection Agency or CEPA a s i t known, to commission the CSIRO. Division of vjater Resources to produce a. technical report on the state of the nation's rivers. ! :

The report recommends a National River Health ' Program with total catchment management and community involvement as its central planks anticipated that the program would give, eff^c many aspects of the National Water Quality Management Strategy.

The paper proposes, the simple goal that most Australia's, rivers should one day be fit to most of the t i m e .

It is

to

o f drink

W »ter quality - the top priority

Water quality is perhaps the first real opportunity for Commonwealth and State/Territory authorities to apply ecologically sustainable development principles to one of our most important resources .

If water is not managed appropriately, we, a·s a nation face massive environmental and economic consequences .

The ecological integrity of our waterways, has been massively compromised. Many native species nave disappeared 'and whole communities have been '

irreparably damaged. .

Managing Water for the Environment - Environmental Plows .

"Water managers are coming to accept that adequate water flows are .essential for the health of the whole riverine environment including river b a n k s , . vegetation, animals, aquatic life forms and human

u s e r s . · . »

No longer should new diversions be allowed unless they can be shown to be ecologically. sus tain'ablev Licences to divert water (whether for production or environmental purposes) should be transferable rather than new licences being created. :

Allocation of water for environment a1" flows !is a field where more research is heeded. We neejd to .know more about the environmental water requirements of riverine systems. An inventory, of such ' .

environments and their requirements, Geographic Information Systems,, decision support system's, - .

conflict resolution, and the valuing of environmental resources will all be import anjt elements in this process.. ■ ·.

Water Use Efficiency .

Given the scarcity of water in Australia, we must use it more efficiently,, particularly for high volume uses such as irrigation . Industry aid the community need to reduce wasteful water use and develop ways to recycle water from industry municipal sewage works ana even private h o m e s .

State agencies are adopting waxer. pricing wh. closely reflects the costs of admir.i strati or delivery. This.will encourage more efficier appropriate water use including recycling·.

ich more

and

t and

The real costs of water supply s h o u l d ,however ■ . . " · ' . , I ■

include environmental costs such as ecological damage, impacts' on other water users, or the need for increased treatment. ·

Ecosystem Approach and Multiple us· Management

ana. So few of our rivers reihain in near-natural relatively pristine condition, that it is . iifportant . - · ’ . " ■ ' . ί ,

t o c o n s e r v e t h o s e t h a t d o r e m a i n . T h e s e " w i l d " a n d

h e r i t a g e r i v e r s a r e i m p o r t a n t b o t h s c i e n t i f i c a l l y

a n d a e s t h e t i c a l l y . B u t t h e y a l o n e c a n n o t f u l f i l

w a t e r c o n s e r v a t i o n n e e d s . ■ ·. ^

F o r m o s t o f o u r w a t e r w a y s , t h e r e s h o u l d b e

o b j e c t i v e m a n a g e m e n t w h i c h r e t a i n s t h e habit,

o f n a t i v e p l a n t s , a n d a n i m a l s . .

. . u l t i p i e -

a t n e e d s

i

I n t e g r a t e d Catchment Management !

It is now recognised that integrated catchment management is essential if we are to manage catc h'm ents sustain a b 1y . This approach demar multi-disciplinary resource allocation, and

coordination between governments and agencie National W a t e r .Quality Management Strategy x emphasises its importance. ' .

cur .

ds

s . The

ightly

The Murray -Da rling Basin Natural Rteourcti Management str at e gy, is a successful model for integrated catchment management and brings together the Commonwealth and other governments with formal

community consultation. Whilst problems suejh as algal blooms and salinity will remain of cor cein for seme time in the Murray Darling Basin, the strategy has set actions in place to confront them.

Conelu9 ion ; , ·

In conclusion, I believe that we have the kr

and technologies in Australia to solve .many all of our water quality management problems

The Commonwealth Government has recently agreement with the Western Australian Govern provide $.19.5 million .to demonstrate innovat "home grown" sewerage, treatment technologies

Perth region. Using funds - provided by CEPA, artificial wetland will be constructed on th Onkaparinga River in South Australia. It. wi

remove nutrients and other contaminants, fr.oir storm .water'arising from rapidly developing ubani.sation, and provide another valuable . demonstration of "home g r o w n " technologies .

owledg e if not

s i g'ned an ment to

i ve in the

an

e 11 ■

u r b a n

i

Cleaner production is crucial to achieving long· term goals in waste and water quality management. It will also develop A u s t r a l i a n "expertise and commercial' opportunities. ·

Water is too precious and scarce a·, resource jto use once, then throw away. . Given the amount of i infrastructure already b u i l t , we must look ^t ways of re-using as much water as we c a n . It seems a

criminal waste not to use sewage and storm water again - and a g a i n . Especially when sewage sludge, is more useful back in agriculture, than in causing ■ ' ■ - . ■ , ' I . · .

nutrient problems i n .our waterways. |

Future planning in urban development should ;ccns idef a dual reticulation system. . First class drinking water can be provided by o n e ■tap - and recycled water provided by.another for use, for example, in the garden. Australian.technology can do this.'

I believe we should aim to end the discharge of .

inadequately treated sewage into rivers and oceans . There should be no discharges of this type not only

because it pollutes rivers a n d ■o c e a n s , but it is a waste of a valuable re s o u r c e . . . . i

Water has a cost. That-is, it has a price as a

. . · . ■ ■ . ■ · . ' ■ . ■ · . ' \ i ■

resource input in agriculture ana industry, jand it . ’ ' ■ ■ ■ . ■ . ■ . ■ . i ■ ■

also has an output cost to the community - which has

a right to expect that water discharged aftejr agricultural or industrial u-se will not adversely affect the environment. There are real, if unmeasured, costs if. such adverse effects, dcj occur

I

12

Never has the demand for standards been higher, never have the expectations of the Australian community been higher. .We want· a cleaner country by 2001. Clean water is a key part of this.

Whether we live in urban or rural· communities, we can no longer take water and water quality for.granted. '