A 2016 ACT Election Agenda: Water conservation – smart use of a scarce resource

Conservation Council ACT Region – A 2016 ACT Election Agenda – Our future, our environment

The Conservation Council has prepared some recommendations which aim to set directions for the ACT Government to reduce environmental impacts over the next four years. We have identified potential initiatives in the key areas of our work:

  • Biodiversity Conservation – protecting our unique ecological communities and the Bush Capital
  • Climate Change – a regional, national and global challenge
  • Planning – the right things in the right places
  • Transport – connecting people and places
  • Waste – being efficient through closed-loop systems
  • Water – smart use of a scarce resource
  • Governance – for a Smarter, Sustainable Canberra

Here we present our policies on water.

Water conservation – smart use of a scarce resource


Water is a fundamental environmental resource that shapes landscapes and nourishes flora and fauna. Water supply is critical for the human population, as well as the environment in which we live. Climate predictions have shown that we can expect more severe droughts, as well as greater floods, and both have major impacts on our environment and way of life.

In an urban society with steadily predicted population increase we need to be prepared for progressive water scarcity, and policies are needed to conserve and effectively use the water available. To maintain and enhance our living environment the conservation and re-use of stormwater and grey water become increasingly important.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan ties Canberra to a fixed net volume for water supply, without any provision for increased volume related to population growth. The net volume is calculated by deducting the volume of treated wastewater discharged into the river from the amount of freshwater extracted, which cancels any gain from use of treated wastewater, dual flush toilets or domestic water recycling, since reduced discharge leads to reduced extraction.

Policy Measures

ACT Water Policy – reduce consumption, reuse and conserve

  • Think Water ACT Water: Maintain ongoing support for an ACT water policy which encourages water re-use, minimises raw water consumption, conserves water from roofs and builds wetlands and stormwater ponds.

Water Infrastructure to improve water quality

  • Establish water quality improvement measures, in all new developments: incorporating into suburb design wetlands, stormwater ponds and grassed swales to assist water quality improvement.
  • Retrofit existing major stormwater channels, including Sullivan’s Creek, Jerrabomberra Creek, and Weston Creek with constructed wetlands and water retention ponds.

Water Sensitive Urban Design for a more liveable and sustainable city

  • Flexible planning for climate change: Plan for potential variability in the climate in the future including long dry spells and flood events. The planning authority should assist in organising ways for the community to develop a water sensitive Canberra
  • Permeable root protection and water catchment for urban trees: Our urban trees, especially in heavy traffic areas – foot, bicycle and even car – should have permeable hard stands shaped to collect water
  • Enhanced urban tree planting to reduce heat loads and water run-off.

Stormwater Management to recognise value and improve quality

  • Provide urban community education campaign on stormwater, emphasising the value of stormwater and need to maintain stormwater quality by reducing rubbish entering stormwater
  • Reduced runoff from new developments 75% of total annual stormwater runoff to be retained within the community via harvesting, infiltration and aquifer recharge
  • Cleaner runoff: Over 95% total annual stormwater runoff volume is filtered and treated before reaching stormwater system or receiving waters
  • Reduce number of stormwater ‘runoff days’ Reduce the number of days in which stormwater runs off the urban area, by a range of infiltration mechanisms.
  • Wetland and Stormwater Ponds: Establish urban wetland and stormwater retention ponds to assist water quality improvement, wildlife habitat and residential amenity. In particular, there should be a focus on the water quality of Lake Burley Griffin and Lake Tuggeranong with ponds to reduce nutrient flows and faecal contamination from stormwater runoff from the urban areas
  • Building Site Management: ensure the Environment Protection Agency has adequate resources to enforce erosion and sediment controls at building sites with a particular focus on new urban developments
  • Establish raingardens (bioretention systems) in new and established developments, including residential streets, to mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff. Enable community involvement in the maintenance of the raingardens.

Water Recycling – Greywater for reuse including for gardens

  • Assist use of Greywater: Provide advice to residents on how to safely use greywater especially for gardens. The planning authority and other government agencies should be organisers and enablers of ways for the community to use greywater
  • Regulate greywater sensibly: greywater should be regulated for appropriate safety levels using a risk management approach.

Water Efficiency – system changes supporting community responsibilities

In public housing and other rented properties

  • Retrofit all ACT Government owned public housing: All ACT government public housing stock should be fitted with efficient fittings and appliances
  • Provide rebate to landlords for fitting efficient fittings and appliances
  • Establish greywater systems in ACT Government owned public housing: Greywater can be useful for gardens and green spaces and should be utilised for public amenity where appropriate. This is especially the case for community gardens associated to public housing
  • Support community involvement in moderating water use.

General appliances

  • Restrict installation of wasteful auto-flushing toilets – community education should occur ahead of water-wasting technologies
  • Provide more publicly accessible drinking water fountains – in both private and public spaces and include provision for pets in appropriate locations.


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