Impact of Local Water and Energy Policies on Government Markets

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June 9, 2015

RWT_WQImpact of Local Water and Energy Policies on Government Markets

Presentation by Dr Peter Coombes for the Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia at 7 am on Thursday 11 June 2015 at Botanical Restaurant, 152 Mt Coot-tha Road Toowong.

Understanding of water and energy systems that are linked to society by holistic objectives is required for development of policy for sustainable operation of government owned markets. It is vitally important that the analysis and decision making for water and energy strategies for a city allows opportunities for complementary strategies at different spatial and temporal scales. These policies should be cognisant of the dimensions and characteristics of an area. These strategies must respond to objectives from the perspective of the whole of society.

Investigations in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth highlight that water cycle management is a transport dominated process. Thus it is important to utilise transport logistics to optimise investment in and management of the water and energy cycle for Cities. A key insight from this understanding is that the costs and energy impacts of providing services throughout cities are cumulative rather than average and static.

Systems Analysis has revealed that local water and energy policies can produce beneficial outcomes throughout a city. This behaviour is generated by the way projects impact on and change local transactions and the behaviour of the entire integrated system.  For example; a policy that includes programs for continuous adoption of water efficient appliances and behaviours, and rainwater tanks are seen to produce considerable whole of system benefits for the states of Victoria and Queensland. Indeed, these programs may provide the highest benefits due to reduced requirement for desalinated water, and augmentation of water and sewage systems. In addition, these programs reduce the operation and renewal costs of infrastructure whilst contributing to improved stormwater quality.

These benefits are highest in areas with high density population that are subject to infill growth, in new urban growth corridors and areas that require extensions to sewage systems or potential replacement of septic tanks. It is important to note that the practice of evaluating programs using narrow unit cost assumptions versus the volume of water saved cannot capture the extent of benefits provided by these policies. The use of systems analysis that includes the entire spectrum of economic or financial processes has revealed a wide range of outcomes that are not currently considered in the evaluation of programs. There is a need to incorporate water and energy targets for buildings to balance statutory monopoly ownership of water and to drive sustainable “free” market behaviour for the benefit of state governments.


Dr Peter Coombes

Dr Coombes has spent more than 30 years dedicated to the development of systems understanding of the urban, rural and natural water cycles with a view to finding optimum solutions for the sustainable use of ecosystem services, provision of infrastructure and urban planning.

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