The future of the Tweed’s water supply has been the subject of a great deal of interest recently, with some confusion in the community about Tweed Shire Council’s approach to this important issue.

Council’s Manager Water Anthony Burnham explained that the council is planning for the Tweed’s future water supply using a two-pronged approach – supply and demand.

“The Water Augmentation project – which is currently under way with the assistance of the Community Working Group – is solely concerned with the supply side,” Mr Burnham said.

“How much water we consume has been the focus of the ongoing demand management side.”

As the population of the Tweed grows, management of both supply and demand would be necessary to ensure an adequate water supply.

“Future urban land release sites already identified across the shire over the next 30 years will mean that the population of the Tweed will double in that time,” Mr Burnham said.

“Both supply and demand management strategies need to be in place to cope with that extra demand.”

Already residents are aware of the importance of reducing water consumption.

“This can be seen from the fact that daily residential consumption per capita has steadily fallen since 2002 and despite steady population growth, the Tweed used less water in 2008 than in 1991,” Mr Burnham said.

Council is working to reduce water consumption even further through:
• Encouraging people to use less water through education and pricing
• Mandating rainwater tanks for all new dwellings
• Promoting the benefits of rainwater tanks for existing dwellings
• Assisting with the retrofitting of water-efficient appliances and fittings such as showerheads (since 2004, 50 per cent of households took the opportunity to retrofit their homes).
• Use of recycled water to reduce dependency on water supplies; for example Chinderah Golf Course, koala food trees at Uki and the Cogeneration Plant at Condong.
• Reducing leakage and water theft from the Tweed’s water supply system
• A structured regime of water restrictions during times of drought.

Residents will have the opportunity to comment on these issues when the Tweed Demand Management Strategy goes on exhibition for public comment at the end January.

The strategy recommends the most appropriate actions the council should implement to realise maximum water savings.

The recommended actions for the whole of the Tweed Shire include:

• A voluntary rainwater tank connected to external uses, toilet flushing and cold water to washing machines:
o Single Dwellings minimum 5000L rainwater tank with a minimum 160 m2 roof area connected to it.
o Multi Dwellings & other buildings Rainwater tanks to be provided on a similar basis connecting 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the roof area.
• Implement an extensive active leakage control and pressure management program.
• Implementing audit and education programs targeting major commercial water users.
• Implementation of selected demand management measures, including education programs, residential audit programs, a retrofit service and rebate scheme (shower heads only).

There are some additional recommendations for greenfield developments at Cobaki Lakes, Bilambil Heights, Terranora and Kings Forest developments:

• New dwellings on a voluntary basis will have minimum of dual flush toilets as well as 3-star showerheads and taps.
• The introduction of Reduced Infiltration Gravity Sewers (RIGS) in new development.

The residential sector recommendations proposed are in addition to requirements of the NSW Government’s Building and Sustainability Index (BASIX).

“Council cannot impose mandatory requirements in excess of BASIX aimed at reducing consumption of mains supplied water,” Mr Burnham said.

“Under the recommendations of the report to go to council, development requirements can only be entered into on a voluntary basis between council and each individual developer.”

On the issue of rainwater tanks, Mr Burnham said they have a valuable role to play in reducing demand.

“A household with 160 square metres of roof connected to a 5000 litre rainwater tank will lead to a 36 per cent reduction in mains water usage,” he said.

(Note – In urban areas, water from rainwater tanks can only be used for external uses, toilet flushing and cold water to washing machines as NSW Health guidelines recommend against using water from rainwater tanks for drinking).

“The water savings from tanks are substantial but we can’t force people to retrofit their existing homes with rainwater tanks – we can only affect new dwellings,” Mr Burnham said.

“And unfortunately, those rainwater tanks can all run dry at the same time so we still need a secure supply, and this requires augmentation.

“Demand management is a crucial part of the Tweed’s overall Integrated Water Cycle Management process but it can’t stand alone.”