Why the Water Supply Needs a Splash of Competition. Article in the Australian Financial Review on 19 January 2017 by Professor P J Coombes with Michael Smit and Dr Katherine Daniell. Australia’s inefficient water monopoly structure is gouging consumers. It is protected by state legislation and bureaucrats with little appetite for change. What’s needed is a radical overhaul of the business philosophy underpinning water services, to allow improved technology and community-led alternatives to cut water costs.
15 December – 9:30 am, David Spence Room, Level 2, Adelaide Town Hall, 128 King William Street Adelaide. Water Sensitive SA, in association with Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia, invite you to join a discussion with Professor Peter Coombes who will challenge our thinking about the potential of rainwater and stormwater harvesting to deliver whole of society and system benefits via distributed solutions. We will also explore the myths associated with rainwater harvesting and reuse, and introduce the new Rainwater Harvesting Design Specification. The Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 together with Living Adelaide the 30 Year Plan Review, offers the best opportunity in more than 20 years to enable stormwater to support a Living Adelaide. Practical tools currently being developed to support industry to maximise the benefits of stormwater harvesting at the allotment scale will be showcased.
Michael Smit and Professor PJ Coombes: An important debate in this country is about the health of people using rainwater, however much of the commentary is research funded by water utilities which has a centralised water distribution perspective quite different to how rainwater harvesting works. One of the recent rebuttal papers by PJ Coombes has just been published and we thought we should discuss some of the issues and assumptions, as much to demonstrate there is a difference of opinion. A presentation at the RHAA seminar in Sydney about widespread use of rainwater and the absence of health epidemics is compelling. Australia has a substantial real world case study with over 2.3 million Australians relying on rainwater for drinking water and more than 6.3 million people using rainwater for some household use. In spite of claims of widespread health concerns, there are no health epidemics or widespread notifications of lead contamination by chief medical officers.
Prof. PJ Coombes and Michael Smit. Manage Water and Energy in your House using systems theory and real data. We were having a bit of a grizzle recently, trying to work out when opinions became more important than facts in this country, and of all things we started to talk about water pumps for rainwater tanks. One quite obvious point that most people grasp is that when you use a pump for rainwater the energy use in the house increases. Obviously if you did not have a pump, and then you get one, and you run the pump, you will use more energy right? This logic is completely sound until you measure it. We measured energy consumed at one of our houses with a rainwater pump and found a 12% decrease in energy consumption from 15 kWh/day to 13 kWh/day. Then we fixed leaking appliances and energy use reduced to 10 kWh/day.
Prof. PJ Coombes and Michael Smit. “Water bills to rise as desal plant gets the go-ahead to start making water for the first time”. This heading caught our eye from our respective desks, so we called up and had a yarn, and some questions came up for us. We make a living from these kinds of questions but some of the answers were a little startling. Desalination is one of the many tools for provision of water security in Australia. However the important question is whether or not it is the best solution. NSW has 10 years of data showing that something is very different in that State compared to the rest of Australia and Melbourne, and one consistent feature affecting water management across the whole state is the BASIX program. Australia is considering a second round of desalination plants. We may be able to provide water security without another 93% increase in household water expenditure by combining different types of technology. Centralised infrastructure solutions could be combined with supplementary decentralised solutions like water efficient appliances and rainwater harvesting in the BASIX program. These combined approaches may mitigate growth in household expenditure and water utility operating costs.