Posted 9 May 2018
Close to 90% of people think saving water is a high priority issue, so it’s no surprise that communities across Australia are working with government agencies to do whatever possible to create resilient and sustainable futures.
But EY Oceanic Water Sector Lead Kevin Werksman said, at Ozwater’18, that there’s still a major disconnect between regulators and residents, preventing people from moving closer to the water-sensitive cities desired.
“In most states and territories, the policy and regulatory environment is adequate for a drained city but not a water-sensitive city. Our customers are ultimately seeking liveability, but research shows land purchasers may be willing to pay a 10% premium price for communities with improved sustainability,” Werksman said.
“Householders may be willing to pay up to $10,000 a year in sustainability and liveability charges. But we need all levels of government to think about water infrastructure in the same way we think about transport.”
He said the water industry across the country operates on ageing infrastructure that struggles to keep pace with increasing urbanisation.
In terms of economics, water utilities looking at water-sensitive developments for new growth areas must take into account the “market value” of the benefits that will be derived.
One city making inroads in the sustainability space is Melbourne, Werksman said.
“Melbourne is a trailblazer with its integrated water management framework. It is pushing the boundaries,” he said.
The Victorian Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning has banded together with Local Councils and the Department of Health and Human Services to effect such change, but Werksman maintains that in most areas, there seems to be “unaligned incentives” between parties who argue over whose responsibility it is to make water-sensitive communities come to fruition.
He said a combined approach will be the only one that works, with developers, councils, state governments, urban water utilities and Federal Government input required to meet the complexities of building sustainability into communities in a way that brings better liveability options to residents.
“At the end of the day, it’s not just about water; it’s about what customers want and how they envisage a water-sensitive city.”
Werksman also identified key benefits of water-sensitive communities, which include:
- Improved public spaces, i.e. wetlands;
- Cheaper water bills;
- Liveability and increased land values;
- Reduced load on existing network and
- Increased community health.
Ozwater’18 is currently ongoing in Brisbane, at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, from now until 10 May.