Lessons learned during
Australia’s worst drought on record are helping California through its own
A new report released today shows that strategies
developed and mistakes made during Australia’s decade-long
millennium drought provide a powerful resource for California, as
the state enters its fifth year of severe drought.
Australian experience shows that investment in water conservation
options provided the cheapest, quickest and most effective
contribution to managing demand during the drought,” said Professor
Stuart White, director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures
(ISF), at the University of Technology Sydney. “Without them
many cities and towns would have run out of water.”
Drought: Learning from Australia, a report by researchers
at ISF, the Pacific Institute and the Alliance for Water
Efficiency, provides an overview of key events and initiatives
implemented in Australia’s four largest cities: Sydney, Melbourne,
Brisbane and Perth. The report was funded by the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California, the San Francisco
Public Utilities Commission, and the Water Research
Australia survived the millennium drought by
demonstrating world-leading innovation and water planning and
management, said Professor White. An important factor in the
successes was community involvement which rallied support to
lower household water demand to a target of 37 US gallons per
person per day.
has made significant progress in advancing water conservation and
efficiency to cope with the drought, but this report shows that
more can be done,” said Heather Cooley, Director of the Water
Program at the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank.
The state has set conservation targets and communities have
implemented short-term water conservation measures, such as
restrictions on outdoor watering. But according to Cooley
“Australia made much larger investments in water conservation and
efficiency, which allowed them to cope with the millennium
drought and also reduce vulnerability to future droughts.”
“In Australia, urban water efficiency was the quiet achiever
and California can benefit from long-term structural changes in
water use by implementing similar water-efficiency measures,”
said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for
Water Efficiency. However, she said, the Australian
experience also provided lessons of what not to do. “We
wanted to document in this report lessons learned that can
inform future decisions by California’s policy-makers.”
New South Wales Government had a policy of “readiness to
construct” for its proposed Sydney desalination plant on
Botany Bay. However, that was overturned and the contract
signed when dam levels were already rising. The result was a
$US1.4 billion stranded asset and a plant that is still in
more flexible, modular and adaptable supply options – dams, major
pipelines, desalination plants, recycling capacity – can save a
lot of money and prevent the construction of stranded assets,”
said Professor White.
On top of successes in urban water
efficiency, other key findings in the report include:
- Broad community involvement across sectors – households,
business, industry and government – fosters a sense of fairness and
collaboration in saving water.
- Clear, credible communication
about the drought situation and response is needed to maximize public
participation and support.
- Innovative water-pricing mechanisms,
not employed during Australia’s millennium drought, could be used to
incentivize water savings in California.
to view the May, 2016 webinar on the report.
Click here to
download the full report.