Recently Rous County Council exhibited their Draft Regional Water Demand Management Plan, which was open for submissions and comment, and have since released a misleading and inaccurate report on the results.
Professor Stuart White from the Institute for Sustainable Futures of UTS is a world expert with over 30 years experience in water efficiency and demand management. He has been a consultant for Rous previously when they were leaders in water efficiency, and keeps a keen interest in the Northern Rivers water situation.
In his submission, Prof. White says ‘I think that the proposed Plan does not meet the basic expectations of a costed plan for investment in water efficiency, and does not form the basis for a reasonable comparison with proposed supply options.
The level of expenditure or demand management is far too small to have any meaningful impact relative to the potential cost-effective options, and certainly relative to any future supply options that may be considered whether they be groundwater, indirect potable reuse or a new dam.’
For a leading water expert to make such comments about the plan put forward by our local water supply organisation does make you wonder if RCC are fit for purpose.
The summary of the submissions is now online on Rous’ Agenda for their next meeting on 19th October, where they will vote on whether to approve the Demand Management Plan as is.
The summary states that 97 per cent (32/33) of the submissions supported the current draft with the staff recommendation to approve the plan.
This is a blatantly inaccurate analysis and negligence by the consultant or staff, whoever prepared the summary. It appears that if a submission supported the general direction of, or a part of the plan, but had grave concerns or criticisms about the focus or scope of other parts, then they were still categorised as being “for” the plan.
Water Northern Rivers is aware of multiple submissions that are definitely not in support of the current draft plan.
This raises questions about the process of delivering accurate summaries to councillors and the public. Hopefully councillors will read the full submissions and decide for themselves before voting on the draft plan at this Wednesday’s meeting.
Concerns have also been raised about the narrow scope of research undertaken by the consultants, with an apparent neglect of recent international data and policy on demand management initiatives.
Level of Service & Secure Yield
According to Prof Stuart White, Rous changed the Level of Service without community consultation, which on paper brings the need for increased water supply sources forward by about a decade.
We would like to see robust community consultation into Level of Service. If the community understands that a small change in their usage/restriction would create such massive savings in water usage and cost, we think the community would embrace such a change.
Water Tank Rebates
One criticism of the current draft plan is the intention to phase out the water tank rebate scheme.
The tank rebate scheme should rather be expanded to include properties that are off-grid or not connected to the water mains. Actively encouraging people to catch rainwater from passing showers and storms is important. This reduces their reliance on the water mains supply, especially during droughts. When people have their own water supply, their behaviour changes around water consumption as they naturally become more mindful of conserving water.
WATER Northern Rivers Alliance (WNR), is a community-based, independent organisation formed to help educate the community to adopt diverse, resilient and sustainable water options (which does not include the destructive Dunoon Dam).