Tuesday, 11 October 2011

No more tightening of the tap, build the Nullinga Dam now!

Environmental report card shows Cairns residents and businesses are water guzzlers

Daniel Strudwick
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
© The Cairns Post

Resident and businesses in Cairns are using more water than in previous years, despite fluctuating dam levels and an aggressive water-saving push by the council.

A dry spell in the Far North has caused water levels at Tinaroo Dam to fall to 81 per cent and water at Copperlode Dam is 2m below the spillway. Cairns Regional Council’s latest figures show water usage increased by 8 per cent in 2010. This was despite high rainfall all year, leading to an expectation the population would rely less on the water supply.

The water data was among the most significant red flags in the council’s latest State of the Environment report, to be tabled at a meeting tomorrow. The council’s general manager of water and waste Bruce Gardiner said the figures weren’t dire, but signalled the council’s water-saving campaign might not be getting through to everyone. "If you look at residential consumption, it only went up 3 per cent, Mr Gardiner said."So what it suggests is that the commercial sector is using more water and we need to focus our message more on them."

During the recent dry spell, the average water use per person was less than usual. But consumption was gradually rising again to the high levels recorded four years ago when water education campaigns were introduced and consumption dropped by 22 per cent. Mr Gardiner also noted that water levels at Copperlode Dam would have to drop another metre before stricter water restrictions were introduced.

Mayor Val Schier said a new water education program could be rolled out across the region pending the results of a trial in the Douglas area, where the region’s water consumption was at its highest. "Maybe Cairns people have become a little bit complacent and maybe we need to keep that message up," Cr Schier said. According to other figures in the latest State of the Environment report, residents were getting better at recycling and less of the region’s waste was going to landfill now the Bedminster plant was back in operation.

But the council was using more fuel and electricity and generating more greenhouse gas. More council vehicles were on the road as a result of cyclone Yasi in February, which contributed to a 28 per cent rise in CO2 emissions from fuel use. And about 11,300 tonnes of waste were dumped at council tips during 2010-11, compared with 9350 tonnes the year before.

Running the council’s new sewage treatment plants also helped push electricity usage up 9 percent compared with the previous year. But Cr Schier said the council was still on track to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2020, despite the backwards steps taken during the last reporting period. "And what’s most important is that we have a target – most councils don’t,"
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