An increase in water consumption, but more diverse sources used

Monday, 11 May, 2015

An increase in water consumption, but more diverse sources used

The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) latest report into national water performance compares 78 urban water utilities providing services to over 20 million people. National water performance reports are produced annually to benchmark the efficient performance of utilities.

‘National performance report 2013-14: urban water utilities’ highlights an increased reliance on diversified water sources in Australia’s highly variable climate. Dr Ian Prosser, assistant director water information services at BOM, suggested that below-average rainfall has caused “a shift towards more climate-resilient water sources, particularly in Western Australia and South Australia, where both states have reported increases in water sourced from desalination”.

The report highlighted a 3% increase in residential supply per property and a 2% increase in the national median typical annual residential water bill. This makes 2014 the third consecutive year of observed increases, which Dr Prosser suggests could be attributed to hotter temperatures, average or below-average rainfall and easing of water restrictions across Australia.

“Rainfall is arguably the most influential factor affecting residential consumption, and drier conditions were compounded by above-average temperatures in 2013 and 2014, which were the hottest and third-hottest years respectively since official temperature records began in 1910,” he said.

Meanwhile, almost a quarter of utilities reported a decrease in their typical residential water bill. There was also a reduction in the national median for water and sewerage complaints.

The report has been welcomed by Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) Executive Director Adam Lovell and Australian Water Association (AWA) Chief Executive Jonathan McKeown, both of whom value the continuing transparency of the urban water sector. However, McKeown said it was disappointing for the sector that the rural national performance report (NPR) has been discontinued.

“Not having a rural NPR will disproportionately affect rural and regional areas as the utilities operating in these locations will not have the advantage of being able to undertake the same level of peer reviews and benchmarking, which provides increased transparency that leads to improved customer service,” he said.

McKeown has separately announced that the AWA will be working with the BOM to create greater industry awareness and uptake of the bureau’s water information products and services. Over the past eight years, he said, the BOM has “developed a comprehensive range of water information products and services to assist the water industry and others make sound decisions based on evidence”.

McKeown explained that several AWA members from the water, financial and agribusiness sectors were “unaware of the full extent of what was available from the bureau”. He said the BOM’s water forecast products would be particularly useful for financial institutions and the businesses they are investing in, providing “the information they need to understand the opportunities and risks of each investment”.

The BOM and AWA will be launching their collaboration on 12 May at Ozwater’15, the AWA’s water conference and exhibition.

Image credit: © Jankovic

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