NSW has outperformed the nation in water efficiency and according to the authors of a new report the reason is its BASIX rating system for housing and the rest of the country should emulate it.
Dr Peter Coombes, principal of consultancy Urban Water Cycle Solutions said the benefits of BASIX has been wider than improving home efficiency; it’s given NSW the edge in resilience in terms of water use.
He said an analysis of the nation’s water billing and use data he undertook with Michael Smit from the Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia clearly showed how well BASIX is working. While consumption and bills are both increasing in Melbourne and other cities, in Sydney costs for households have remained relatively steady, as has water use.
Dr Coombes told The Fifth Estate that BASIX requirements around water efficiency should be part of planning frameworks around the country in order to improve the resilience of the urban form.
The stumbling block is that the grey infrastructure agenda around water has some deep-seated similarities to the economic and political landscape of the coal, mining and energy sectors. As with fossil fuels, the casualty is the sustainability of our cities and the hip pockets of the households in them, Dr Coombes said.
Looking at the Australian Bureau of Statistics Water Accounting data on a national level, the analysis showed Australian households spent $2 billion more on water in 2013/14 than they did in 2008/9. The consumption data also showed an average 27 per cent more water being used nationally in 2013/14 compared to 2008/9.
The difference between the Sydney data and the national picture, Dr Coombes told The Fifth Estate, is that the measures implemented under BASIX – including the installation of rainwater harvesting for homes, increased use of grey water systems and mandating water-efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures – are working.
“Water use in Sydney stabilised a long time ago,” he said. “That is because of the sustainable buildings in Sydney. The substance of the urban form has some resilience in it. There was a change in the urban form in response to water resources and liveability issues”. To read more click here.