Feedback on DEWS 30- year Strategy Discussion Paper - "Shaping our water future"
Feedback on DEWS 30-‐year Strategy Discussion Paper – “Shaping our water future”
28/03/13 Griffith University Submission 2 Table of Contents 1 Introduction 3 2 General Feedback 4 2.1 Challenges 4 2.1.1 Streamlined, Integrated catchment management 4 2.1.2 Value water 4 2.1.3 Wastewater & use of recycled water 4 3 Part 2: Feedback on the discussion paper questions 4 3.1 Regulation 4 3.2 Water business sustainability 5 3.3 Innovation 6 3.4 Integrated planning 7 3.5 Empowering customers 8 3.6 Pricing 9 3.7 Further ideas 9
28/03/13 Griffith University Submission 3 1 Introduction Griffith University welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Department of Energy & Water Supply’s recently released discussion paper entitled “Shaping our water future”. Griffith University is internationally recognized for its research and teaching in freshwater, estuarine and urban water At Griffith, Water Science research and expertise are embedded in several departments, reflecting the multi-‐disciplinary nature of water research, in particular in the Smart Water Research Centre, the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management, and the Australian Rivers Institute.
Griffith University’s feedback on the discussion paper and specific questions reflects this breadth of expertise.
28/03/13 Griffith University Submission 4 2 General Feedback 2.1 Challenges The challenges posed to the security and reliability of Queensland’s water supply over the next 30 years by continuing rapid population growth and industrial expansion are correctly highlighted in the discussion paper. ,. However, climate change and climate variability are also key factors that will exert considerable influence over water security and reliability and should also be considered in any long term planning. 2.1.1 Streamlined, Integrated catchment management We believe that if Queensland is to achieve water security, reliability and affordability it is essential that management of catchments and associated reservoirs be coordinated and match to the topographic boundaries.
2.1.2 Value water Water should be valued not only for the benefits which it delivers in household, agricultural & industrial uses, but also for the considerable social benefits derived from catchment-‐related ecosystem services such as flood regulation and water-‐based recreation. 2.1.3 Wastewater & use of recycled water We note that water recovery after waste treatment has not been considered and that recycled water is only designated for industrial use.
Recycled water should be considered as an option for all uses of water and particularly where new water sources are required. Recycled water should be assessed on equal merits as other sources of water based on sustainability, economic, social/cultural values. Water recycling projects throughout Australia have often failed, not because of technical, economic or environmental impacts but because of the social acceptability of using water that has been identified as passing through a sewage treatment plant. The recovery of, not just the water but, other resources, such as phosphorus should be considered for new and existing sewage treatment processes.
Many other beneficial uses of recycled water are possible, such as irrigation and potable reuse. The Queensland government has invested massively in infrastructure (e.g., the Western Corridor Scheme) and research (e.g., Urban Water Security Research Alliance) to develop a supply of water that relies on multiple sources to ensure a safe, sustainable and reliable supply of water for the future of all Queenslanders. This investment should not be wasted. Whilst it is raining it is an opportune moment to proactively inform the community about the pros and cons of water recycling.
The Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence is based in Queensland, it would be prudent for the State Government to engage and take advantages of the outputs from this centre in promoting the use of recycled water. 3 Part 2: Feedback on the discussion paper questions 3.1 Regulation What needs to be done to create a light-‐handed regulatory model? How can we maintain the integrity of the regulatory framework (e.g.
drinking water quality, environmental protection, public health) while reducing the regulatory burden? What needs to be regulated?
28/03/13 Griffith University Submission 5 What can move towards self-‐regulation? A number of government departments regulate or have an interest in water and sewerage services. In what ways could this be better streamlined? There are currently 7-‐8 government departments with regulatory responsibilities for water. This renders the regulatory processes onerous, and can lead to duplication and inefficiency.
Current regulation is fragmented and serves the department rather than the sector. Self-‐regulation of water services is not recommended. Regulation of water and water service providers is required to ensure the maintenance of public and environmental health. There is a significant risk that self-‐regulation would lead to dangerous trade-‐ offs between safe and sustainable water provision and capital benefits to the shareholders of the water utilities. Suggested solutions for consideration: There is a pressing need for catchment scale integrated regulation that matches the topographic boundaries of the catchments and addresses all stages of the water cycle coherently and consistently.
The objectives of catchment scale, water cycle focussed regulation would be to secure cost effective quality and quantity of water provision and encourage appropriate and efficient allocation of a spectrum of different water products (e.g. raw water, processed potable water, recycled water ...) among a range of different uses (household, agriculture, mineral extraction, food processing . .
Studies have shown that raw water quality in southeast Queensland is deteriorating so a ‘business as usual’ approach for this region will not provide a reliable and high quality water supply in the future. There are two main options for dealing with this issue i) upgrade the treatment plants and supply infrastructure or ii) improve the condition of the catchments. A whole-‐of-‐catchment approach is needed to trade off future upgrades of assets with mitigation of water quality within catchments. There is much to learn from the legislation of the Sydney Catchment Authority which says that any development that potentially impacts land catchment management must have a beneficial or neutral effect on water quality.
A similar approach in Queensland, adapted for local conditions, would be a major step forward towards improving water quality. We suggest a risk-‐based approach to regulation rather than a performance-‐based criteria approach Water planning would also benefit from more involvement of a quasi-‐independent body such as Qld Water Directorate / SEQ catchments. 3.2 Water business sustainability How do we facilitate the sustainability of service providers, particularly those who already have difficulties with revenue, resources and/or skills to maintain and deliver water supply and sewerage services? Currently Queensland has a large number of water providers a number of which are inadequately staffed and have with limited resources, and in some cases, limited skills and expertise.
Equally it is a difficult balance to maintain performance criteria for regulators and to retain skilled workers for small, and/or regional service providers. Small water providers are at a major disadvantage in today’s water sector. The provision of safe, sustainable and good quality water requires significant technical expertise and finances. Additionally, issues faced by small water suppliers across different localities are very similar, and there is a
28/03/13 Griffith University Submission 6 significant opportunity for streamlining the current model by pooling the multitude of small water suppliers into a larger entity with a global vision and a pooled funding, knowledge and technical expertise, as has been done in the past 10-‐20 years in NSW and Vic. This pooling would result in greatly improved efficiency and significant savings, which can then be passed on to the consumer. Potential solutions for consideration could be: Larger water authorities can play a coordinator role providing expertise and knowledge to the smaller providers.
Fora could be organised for information exchanges and indeed some services this is already in place (need example). NSW and Victoria have successfully implemented such a model and have amalgamated the smaller water providers providing the small providers with the knowledge, training and resources. If there was a central body responsible for all aspects of water management and supply, it could provide a link to these resources. QldWater (the Directorate) is close to this but is currently under resourced therefore is forced to be selective in membership and services they can offer.
3.3 Innovation How do we encourage and reward innovation? The development of a resilient and growing water sector is critical to creating and maintaining resilient and reliable water sources and water allocation in the near and foreseeable future. is The Water Industry Skills Taskforce concluded at the 2012 Skills Forum that there is no skills shortage despite the aging demographic within the industry and a looming depletion of water managers and skilled operators within the next 5-‐15 years (http://www.awa.asn.au/uploadedfiles/Water_Industry_Skills_Forum_Report.pdf ).
This has serious implications for the industry as it impacts on funding allocation for skills development. Without ongoing support for the water sector skill-‐base the water science capabilities, knowledge etc.
will be lost. Additionally, in the future Queensland can position itself as an innovator in the water industry but this requires talented, well-‐trained staff at all stages of their career (including vocational, para-‐ professionals, degree and higher degree trained professionals) Potential solutions for consideration are: Streamlined integration between water authorities would facilitate training and professional development of the work force. Further, if peak water bodies were better resourced they could also play a role in professional development.
Other sources of knowledge and skills development can be accessed from the knowledge base within universities, research institutes, and science centres. These institutions know that innovative research underpins the ongoing recognition of professional, resilient and well-‐respected water science professionals. The current lack of encouragement to innovate and lack of recognition that innovation leads to positive change stifles innovation in the water sector. A major issue is that the water sector does not currently value natural capital assets in catchments and the emphasis is placed instead on built infrastructure.
Quantification of the social value ecosystem services provided by natural capital assets in catchments would assist in this regard. Further, innovative water research needs to be more strongly valued and supported by for example, Future Funds.
- It is critical for the water industry to collaborate with researchers to develop innovative solutions to challenging problems in the future throughout the entire water supply chain.
- Payment (or recognition for) for ecosystem services should be encouraged, based on accurate estimates of the net social value which these ecosystem services deliver e.g.
For example, paying farmers to change their land management practises in catchments headwaters could be a considerably more efficient way of reducing nutrient and sediment loads which enter the potable water supply system than retro-‐fitting or up-‐grading the nutrient removal capabilities of existing sewage treatment plants further down the catchment .
- Innovation in both agriculture and industry could continue to reduce water use and their environmental impact.
- Innovation needs to be centred around the concept of Water Sensitive Cities – where water and wastewater are considered in tandem
- Need to support institutions that encourage, foster and implement innovative development
- Encouragement and reward for innovation and R & D may include:
- Reduce costs and resources to supply suitable quality / fit for purpose water
- Improve water security, consumer will use more water and service provider will increase revenue
- Enhanced consumer choice, cost reductions.
- Wastewater generation increases if water consumption increases...need to consider this...alternative water recycling options / uses.
- (Cash) Innovation Awards and peer recognition 3.4 Integrated planning Do our future needs work together or do they conflict? How do we encourage integrated catchment-‐based services and better long-‐term planning? By far the biggest user of water is agriculture. Urban water users have already greatly contributed to reducing their water usage in Queensland, and the focus now needs to shift to agricultural water use. In particular, new practices and crops that require less watering should be encouraged and supported via investment and public awards. Deteriorating water quality and increasing water scarcity render the current and future challenges more intense. There are 53 water basins in Queensland making the sector highly complex. A more integrated approach is needed. Additionally, there would be benefit integrating planning across the whole water cycle. This also means that the water-‐energy-‐food nexus needs to be integrated into future supply, public health and environmental health management strategies. This includes irrigation which has not been considered to be part of the water sector in the Discussion document – it even has a separate peak body “Australian Irrigators”. Additionally, climate change and the reality of an underlying decline in water quality and ecosystem health also need to be addressed in tandem with future supply and demand forecasting. We propose a model where there is a catchment authority which has multiple stakeholders, and is properly resourced. It needs to have a Chief Scientific Officer and is responsible for selecting science providers. Key roles could be:
- Controls funding allocation to implementers
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- Provides regulation oversight
- Provides central planning targets
- Has influence on water supply bodies DSITIA may play a role in monitoring and evaluating performance There is currently a tension between water security and public accountability.
- ‘fit-‐for-‐purpose’ is missing in water quality regulations – how do you manage service providers and regulate and manage environment
- Climate change also needs to be addressed in tandem with future supply and demand forecasting
- Too many water providers, too many regulators. (e.g.
- Qld Health v EPA v DEWS)
- Additionally, as there are many common problems across catchments, greater information sharing across catchments is needed. The integration of sections of multiple departments responsible for water is one way of achieving this. Additionally, a Regulators and water managers Forum could provide the opportunity for issues to be tabled, liaison officers could participate and this would provide open communication. 3.5 Empowering customers How can service providers improve their engagement with their consumers? Greater communication between the public and the water industry is needed because the public does not understand the cost of water, they are nervous about recycled water and they do not understand the impediments to providing water security. Potential solutions to engagement with consumers are:
- To Educate consumers by providing more candid coverage of the problems, issues and challenges faced by the water supply industry. .
- This involves open communication to encourage and educate the public and stimulate their involvement in the discussion. There is a need to build trust between providers and customers, particularly since the floods in the last 2 years. If the customer trusts the Water Authority then they are more likely to accept that recycled water is safe, for example. This information should be provided so that it is “simple enough to understand but technical enough to be trusted”
- Programs within school, government, universities exist to inform people on where water comes from, agricultural uses.
- Community surveys / interviews are needed to capture baseline attitudes to service providers. Need to measure – what is the baseline?
- Use successful & relevant national and international models that have worked (need examples)
- Give consumers CHOICE – restructure tariffs to offer payment choices for water. Provide consumers choice of type of water (recycled / potable / rainwater) and type of payment scheme.
- Water should be ‘fit for purpose’ since not all water has to be of same high quality. This approach will free up time and resources as well as encouraging appropriate and efficient allocation of a spectrum of different water products between different end uses.
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- There is an opportunity to educate the next generation by building an understanding of the water cycle into the national curriculum. There is currently nothing about water in the national science curriculum.
- By educating the next generation, there is also an opportunity to improve the knowledge and skills base required for a resilient water workforce (Q7).
- Use current technology to educate and engage consumers.
- Develop an APP to show the cost to treat water to a certain quality at a defined point in time (link to Q12).
- Smart metering can inform people which machines use the most water. 3.6 Pricing In what way can water and sewerage access charges be structured to be more 'cost reflective' and encourage behaviour change in consumers and improved decision making of service providers? The issue with pricing is that water is an undervalued resource and the water price is determined by the cost of the infrastructure. Consumers currently pay too little for water and the money we do pay is typically for the infrastructure that delivers it to the tap. The challenges facing service providers are the need to communicate the real cost of water and to educate consumers people as to how much water is used to produce food, industrial output etc. In doing so this would help people make informed decisions and drive innovation and change (links to Q11). A good example of this was the response of consumers to the drought in the 2000s when they were encouraged to reduce their water consumption substantially. Water service providers need to explain their pricing structure. Currently, water providers charge a “fixed service charge” + a small additional charge for actual water use. The fixed charge provides a guaranteed income stream for providers and goes some way towards covering the cost of built infrastructure. This pricing model only serves to reinforce the notion that water is of little value. There is an urgent need to think beyond the costs incurred in built infrastructure and recognise the broader social net benefits delivered by water-‐related ecosystem services in sectors as diverse as tourism, land management, biodiversity conservation, and environmental management. Different pricing models that could be considered in the 30-‐year water strategy are:
- New infrastructure vs.
- old infrastructure – different tariffs
- Tourist v business vs. industrial v residential
- Block v hourly vs. monthly tariffs
- Service providers don’t want to lose revenue so they need to make water cheaper and more accessible. They could do this by shifting peaks to reduce infrastructure costs but not reduce overall consumption. However, in times of low water supply water efficiency programmes and demand management would need to be triggered quickly and effectively. 3.7 Further ideas Overall, what other changes need to occur to achieve our water vision in the: short term (2013-‐14), medium term (2014-‐19) and Long term (2019-‐42)? Griffith University congratulates the Queensland Government on having the foresight to develop a 30-‐ year water strategy and we are delighted to be engaged in the planning process and contribute to its development, refinement and implementation.
- Increasing Consumer awareness
- Developing a National Water Education Strategy to educate and engage consumers. The current understanding of the public in water science issues is very limited and has proven to be a barrier to changes in water management, even where those were clearly improving on the current management. Better public education in the water cycle in particular is a long-‐ term investment (starting with better education during primary school) and on a timescale particularly well suited to a 30-‐year strategy.
- Developing a Innovation Strategy and a system to support it
- Consideration of alternative pricing models What needs to done in the medium term (2014 – 2019) ?
- Restructure the entities and formalise their interactions. Ensure that the right structures and processes are implemented. Invest in new technology for water “supply”, develop new agricultural practises that reduce water wastage and preserve the catchment, apply technological advances to industry, particularly mining and Coal seam gas industry. Future development needs to be achieved in the context of the water, energy, climate nexus. The action items in the medium term are:
- Maintain consumer awareness
- Develop a Climate change resilience Strategy (water-‐energy nexus)
- Develop a streamlined regulatory framework and a system to support it
- Consideration of alternative pricing models What needs to done in the long term (2019 – 2042) ?
- The action items in the long term are:
- Implement plan
- Monitor and evaluate the plan
- Institute a process of adaptive management
- All of these processes are underpinned by innovative technological change.