Directory : Water Directory 2013
Water Directory 2013 PAGE 51 measures to meet the water supply requirements of rural and agricultural users, urban users and the environment. Respondents suggest that rural and agricultural supplies might best be secured through improved water efficiency, with the top two responses being 'Facilitate Transition to More Water-Efficient or Higher Value Crops' and 'Repair Irrigation Infrastructure'. Only 29% would select a supply-side option (that is, increasing storage capacity) and just 4% suggest that water allocated to the environment should be reduced. In its 2011 report on the urban water sector, the Productivity Commission argued that investment in irrigation system upgrades is an inefficient way to provide additional water to the environment and suggested that buying back water would be more cost-effective. However, survey respondents believe there should be a mix, with a preference for more investment in infrastructure repair than water buybacks. On the other hand, respondents believe urban water supply is best secured through the use of innovations such as recycling and capturing stormwater. Improved water efficiency is the second most popular option, while the use of rainwater tanks is supported by only a moderate number of respondents. Greater exploitation of traditional supply options (for example, raising dam levels) is favoured by only 18% of the sample, placing it on par with 'allowing greater rural/urban water trades'. Further analysis suggests that while innovative sources are preferred to secure urban supply, their use for drinking water purposes does not have majority support: for example, only 44% of respondents believe recycled water or stormwater is suitable for drinking. In terms of the water needed to preserve the environment, respondents said this could be best provided by repairing or upgrading infrastructure to reduce water loss. Respondents feel the environment's high- security water entitlements should be respected, but they also believe that the provision of water for the environment must be understood and targeted to ensure efficiency. While the effects of drought have disappeared from most of the nation's heavily populated areas and its most productive agricultural districts, respondents are not inclined to cut conservation and efficiency programs. More than two-thirds of respondents believe such programs should not be curtailed at all or should be curtailed only marginally. Debate about desalination and pricing In the past five years, significant investments have been made in desalination plants in coastal areas around the country. It is concerning, then, that 67% of those surveyed believe such investment has been not very, or not at all, cost-effective. Delving deeper into this issue, a majority believe the construction of desalination plants was timely, but 29% believe the plants were too large or costly. A further 30% believe their construction was ill-advised or occurred too soon. That said, 69% of respondents believe water prices are about right or too low. Only 22% believe they are too high, although many also feel it is important to respond to community concern over the rising price of water (an issue that was not mentioned at all in 2010). The idea of increasing water prices when water is scarce is supported by 42% of respondents, while 53% believe this approach would not be beneficial. Qualified support for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan Progress in developing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was also explored. There is strong support among urban and rural water professionals for finalising the plan within existing timeframes -- or within slightly extended timeframes to enable further research and consultation to be carried out -- notwithstanding the easing of drought conditions in the Basin. Very few respondents feel the plan should be abandoned. There is uncertainty among both urban and rural respondents, however, about the level of water allocation reductions proposed in the plan. Forty per cent said the reductions are about right or too low, while 44% did not feel able to express a view.
Water Directory 2014