First published in The Sunday Telegraph, on 13/10/19
People in the bush know how precious water is. They’ve been counting every drop for generations – having been in drought more times than not over the past 20 years.
When water dries up in regional NSW it not only affects the paddocks, but the towns.
People in the bush are always the first to feel the effects of the drought, they have learnt to adapt and be more resilient in times of hardship.
For generations we have been living off tanks, bores, stormwater and recycled wastewater, which is commonly used for crop irrigation, fire fighting, watering parks and ovals, and for industrial use, taking pressure off their local water supply.
For example, it’s no surprise that Tenterfield is leading the charge in NSW to look into direct potable water supply.
Tenterfield have a reputation for being pioneers – birthplace of our Nation where Sir Henry Parkes gave his Federation Speech in 1889, is leading the charge in NSW to look at using recycled water for drinking.
Tenterfield used around 600,000 litres a day of recycled water to help fight recent bushfires.
Orange has a stormwater harvesting scheme that can bolster the city’s water supply ot meet up to b25 per cent of annual demand, even with a small amount of rain.
We are investing $10 million for Walgett and Bourke to have a reverse osmosis plant to improve the drinkability of emergency bore water. Parkes has the Recycled Water Rising Main, a scheme to provide high quality recycled water for parks and sporting fields.
As our population grows this type of infrastructure is essential in ensuring our communities have long-term water security for the future.
In Sydney, the population is expected to increase to eight million people by 2056.
Today, every 10 litres of water that currently goes into a Sydney home, eight litres leave as wastewater.
While necessity is driving great progress in the bush, Sydney is making progress in diversify its water sources.
Last year 44 billion litres of recycled water was supplied to residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural use, as well as enhancing river water quality. Over the next 25 years, we want to double water recycling to more than 80 gigalitres (That’s 80 billion litres) per year.
To become truly drought resilient, water sources that are independent of rainfall – particularly recycled water – must grow in Sydney.
We need to make wastewater a renewable resource, instead of a waste product. Combined with recycled stormwater it can keep Sydney thriving during future droughts.
If we are practical enough to follow the lead of Tenterfield, recycled water can even secure our drinking water supply. This practice is commonplace in many of the world’s great cities like XX and XX, and supported by Australia’s leading water academics.
Diversifying our portfolio of water sources is going to become our state’s new reality.
This isn’t the first drought we have faced and we know it won’t be our last.