Home NewsWater Issues Australasia New report warns DPIE and Sydney Water failing to deliver on water conservation initiatives

New report warns DPIE and Sydney Water failing to deliver on water conservation initiatives

A new report by the Auditor General for New South Wales, Australia has found that the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and Sydney Water are failing to deliver on water conservation initiatives.

As a result, Greater Sydney’s water supply may be less resilient to population growth and climate variability, including drought,  Auditor General Margaret Crawford is warning.

The report examines whether the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and Sydney Water have effectively progressed water conservation initiatives in Greater Sydney, with a focus on activities since 2016.

The report found that the department and Sydney Water have not effectively investigated, implemented or supported water conservation initiatives in Greater Sydney. The agencies have not met key requirements of the current Metropolitan Water Plan and Sydney Water has not met all its operating licence requirements for water conservation.

There has been little policy or regulatory reform, little focus on identifying new options and investments, and limited planning and implementation of water conservation initiatives.

The Metropolitan Water Plan states that water conservation, including recycling water, makes the drinking water supply go further. The plan also states that increasing water conservation efforts may be cheaper than building new large-scale supply options and can delay the timing of investment in new supply infrastructure.

The Auditor-General is recommending that the department should develop a clear policy and regulatory position on water conservation options, improve governance and funding for water conservation, and work with Sydney Water to assess the viability of water conservation initiatives.

The report also recommends improvements to Sydney Water’s planning for and reporting on water conservation, including the transparency of this information.

Key findings include:

  • Governance around water conservation is weak – the Department and Sydney Water have not identified clear responsibilities nor established formal arrangements that support planning, implementation, reporting and capacity for water conservation.
  • No recent, detailed analyses of water conservation options – the Department has not undertaken detailed analyses of a range of water conservation options since 2013.
  • Lack of planning for water conservation, including securing the necessary funds –  the Department and Sydney Water have struggled to fund water conservation initiatives. Funding for water efficiency programs was scaled back when Sydney Water was not required to contribute to the Climate Change Fund between 2012–13 to 2016–17. Both the Department and Sydney Water were using the fund to resource their water conservations activities.
  • Sydney Water did not implement initiatives as required and was slow to respond to drought
  • There is limited evaluation and reporting on water conservation initiatives – Sydney Water provides some analysis of water savings and costs in its water conservation reports. However, there has been limited evaluation of the success of its initiatives.
  • The Department has not done annual assessments on the level and appropriateness of investment in water conservation, despite this being an expectation under the Metropolitan Water Plan.
  • There has been limited action to remove barriers to water recycling and stormwater harvesting

The state-owned corporation supplies water, wastewater, recycled water and some stormwater services to more than five million people in Greater Sydney.

Click here to read the full report

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