Regional Water Sustainability

The Greens (WA) believe that:

  • a changing climate poses new problems for water resource management which affects biodiversity, forests in water catchments, dependent industries, groundwater dependant ecosystems and urban water users
  • groundwater extraction in some areas of Western Australia exceeds sustainable water extraction levels
  • wetlands and other important environmental areas are adversely affected as a result (see also The Greens (WA) Wetlands policy)
  • The Greens (WA) believe that current State policies are unsustainable and much more can and should be done to conserve, reuse and recycle water resources

Aims

The Greens (WA) want:

  • long-term assessment of the impact of climate change on the extent and sustainability of our water resources  (see also The Greens (WA Climate Change & Energy policy)
  • water resource management integrated with long-term regional planning
  • the biological diversity and ecology of water-dependent ecosystems preserved in water allocations
  • the creation and implementation of Area Water Management Plans according to sustainable management principles in order to achieve sustainable water resource outcomes
  • regular reports published on Area Water Management Plans detailing the quantity and quality of water resources, the extent of extraction, the health of dependent ecosystems and the ongoing sustainability of resource use
  • strong funding for the protection and management of water resources and restoration of degraded environments
  • research and implementation of water conservation, re-use and recycling measures

Measures

The Greens (WA) will initiate actions and support legislation to:

  • ensure that water use charges for all water users reflect the true cost of monitoring, managing and protecting our water resources and send a clear price signal to profligate users
  • ensure open, inclusive and equitable processes in water resource protection and management, applying the precautionary principle1
  • provide for the publishing of regular performance reports on Area Water Management Plans in newspapers
  • research the long-term impact of bauxite and other mining activities, site revegetation and the consequences for water resources (see also The Greens (WA) Mining and Other Extractive Industries policy)
  • negotiate for federally owned or controlled land, such as airports, to be subject to state water resource management legislation
  • investigate and report on the status of water logging and salinity risk in the Stage 1 Ord River irrigation project, and the implications for Stage 2 expansion (see also The Greens (WA) Regions policy)
  • oppose major new dam building in the South West in recognition of the negative environmental and social impacts, and the uncertainty arising from a drier climate in the South West
  • legislate to protect waterways from stock incursion to enable the revegetation of buffer zones and the protection of surface water quality
  • ensure that water allocation and licensing practices:
    • are within sustainable extraction limits, given thorough scientific assessment of the hydro-geological extent of water resources, predicted rates of recharge taking into account likely impacts of climate change, and the water-use needs of dependent local ecosystems
    • promote the equitable use of limited shared resources, taking into account an assessment of the relative social, environmental and economic benefits and costs of competing water uses
    • are informed by monitoring of the extent of the resource and the health of dependent ecosystems
  • ensure adaptive management that reflects the changing volume of sustainable yield in any given year
  • ensure water trading is subordinate to Area Water Management Plans
  • ensure that only water that has been made available through efficiency measures can be traded
  • return unused allocation to the consumptive pool
  • introduce better policing of the metering of water use for licensed water extraction
  • research the energy consumption of pumping water from private bores
  • investigate the benefits of measuring private bore consumption
  • trial the use of reinjection of water of suitable quality to restore the health of the superficial aquifer2
  • ensure that the combined public and private extraction from superficial aquifers and surface water sources adheres to the principle of sustainable yield and the precautionary principle (or environmental protection)
  • create a transparent and open process within the Department of Water to allocate water licenses, based on consultation with local communities, and to resolve disputes.
  • institute a third party right of appeal for water licence allocations
  • regularly review existing groundwater allocation limits and develop allocation plans for those areas with no plan as yet
  • promote the introduction of efficient water use practices in irrigation and discourage the growing of high water use, low value crops
  • require that the establishment of new industries that are large consumers of fresh water demonstrate their benefit to the community and the environment and review existing industries that are large consumers of water on that basis
  • oppose the misuse of tax-effective schemes that encourage speculation and misallocation of water
  • increase the use of water sensitive urban design and construction to recharge groundwater aquifers, subject to safe management of likely pollutants
  • manage drainage systems and catchments to minimise the entry of nutrient and non-nutrient pollutants in waterways
  • promote 'third pipe' plumbing systems3 in new buildings which allow for the reuse of domestic greywater
  • promote the use of rainwater tanks as alternative water sources

(See also the Australian Greens Water and Inland Aquatic Environments policy)

Glossary

1. precautionary principle - where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

2. Superficial aquifer: refers to the aquifer nearest the surface, usually consisting of loose, permeable deposits such as sand or gravel.

3. ‘third pipe’ plumbing system – a system to provide non-drinking water to multiple users as an additional water supply network to the mains scheme that supplies drinking water and the sewerage scheme that takes used water away from the house. Plumbing design standards apply to avoid cross contamination, and purple-coloured pipes are used to avoid confusion. Sometimes groundwater which has not been treated to drinking water standards is supplied by a third pipe system.

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