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Thursday, 24 February 2011
Page: 1412

Mr GEORGANAS (1:39 PM) —I rise in support of the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Amendment Bill 2010 and the Commonwealth’s efforts in increasing consumers’ opportunities to make informed choices about household products to help minimise the water that is used by our households.

We have had energy ratings on appliances for many years and I am sure that we all agree on the merits of such a scheme. We also have had the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Scheme, giving us a similar insight into the merits of one appliance over another with regard to water consumption. The bill before us simply enacts recommendations put to the government for the more efficient and effective functioning of this scheme in giving the minister the ability to make determinations on additional plumbing requirements, such as those established by the states and territories who regulate the plumbing industry.

Since the WELS scheme was introduced in 2005, there has been evidence, I understand, that consumers are taking note of the water efficiency advice contained in the product labelling and making their consumer choices with this in mind, and that is a good thing. We have seen a substantial shift over recent years in the deployment of systems that reduce the need for water. New systems have been popping up in public and private washrooms alike. Rainwater harvesting systems have made a very large impression on the public and also businesses who build their custom offices or showrooms. People have become much more water wise on a residential level, a commercial level and in other areas of our public lives. This is all, clearly, a very good thing and a motif that I hope the opposition would support.

I welcome the further development and uptake of initiatives such as the WELS scheme and our rainwater-harvesting scheme, in particular as they apply to households and other premises within South Australia. South Australian residents—residents of Adelaide and beyond—have been doing their bit for water conservation over several years, just as we continue to do today and will continue to do into the future.

Historically, Adelaide has sourced most of its potable water from the River Murray. Through the early years of this century, it was sourcing over half of the 200-plus gigalitres per year we consumed to keep the city going as it then was. In more recent years, through the drought, we have consumed much less. But the Murray has continued to be the lifeblood of Adelaide. We strive, as we have striven over the years, to reduce the volume of water we use and consume. We try to pare back our water consumption—be it by five gigalitres, 10 gigalitres, 20 gigalitres or more from our historic levels of consumption.

A city like Adelaide with a population of well over one million people has striven to cut its consumption and its drain on the River Murray by 20-odd per cent. More than one million people are cutting back to save 30 gigalitres a year—year after year after year. And I am glad that we have been able to do this because the 30 gigalitres that Adelaide residents bend over backwards to save helps sustain the river system. Sadly, our river system within South Australia needs almost 2,000 gigalitres of water more than has typically flown down the Murray in the past few years. In this context, Adelaide’s consumption of 140 gigalitres per year and our 30 gigalitres of saving might not seem like much, but the effort we make in Adelaide is very substantial as a proportion of the water we have taken in the past.

While Adelaide’s one million people and businesses use 140 odd gigalitres, the Goulburn region uses up to 1,700 gigalitres per year, the Murrumbidgee region uses up to 2,600 gigalitres per year, so the draw on the River Murray itself, upstream from Wentworth, is up to 3½ thousand gigalitres per year. Adelaide residents know what it means to save water. We know what it means to cut our consumption, to have some of our trees die, our gardens die, our parklands die. We have made these cuts in the past and we know how much it hurts. And so I find it a bit of a stretch when we read from the Basin Plan community consultation minutes that some commentators argue that the sustainability of the River Murray and the basin generally would be improved if Adelaide simply installed more rainwater tanks and took less water from the Murray. The numbers I have already given show, I believe, how marginal a volume Adelaide takes in comparison to some other regions. When people raise their voices against the prospect of there being reductions in the total water taken out of the river system for other than critical human need purposes, I suggest they remember that they are not the only regions that are affected by variability in water availability.

I also suggest they remember that any reductions in the maximum draw on water through the buy-back scheme will be totally voluntary. Only those who wish to sell and engage in the sale of their license will have their rights affected. Only those who have decided themselves to take up offers to sell their water licenses have had their water licenses affected by the increase in environmental water. This has been the case over the past few years, as it will be the case in the future. It is their choice and it is entirely up to them. The fact of the matter is—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Order! It being 1.45 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.