We are going to need a lot of houses in Australia. About 4 million new households are projected by 2036, a 50% increase from 2011. (ABS, 2015). These houses will need additional infrastructure for electricity and especially water. How do we manage this? It is an important question because the millennium drought demonstrated finding more supply is expensive. Water and sewerage bills rose by 38% from 2005 to 2014. (BOM, 2015).
We have government legislation in place to ensure most new housing meets a six star energy standard. These are performance based standards allowing flexibility to meet the targets and reduce future demand. Performance based water saving targets are missing or not consistent across Australia.
We would like to see other parts of Australia adopt an approach to water saving targets similar to the BASIX approach in NSW. BASIX spent years researching the data and set targets based on local conditions. New houses, units and major renovations must meet reduction targets of 40% less water and emissions (energy) than average dwellings before 2005. BASIX is achieving its targets, is cost effective and by 2050 the net savings (after administration and compliance) are estimated between $294 million and $1.1 billion. Most of those savings are enjoyed by the homeowners in reduced utility bills. (BASIX, 2011)
We think this is a sensible approach to reducing the cost of water infrastructure, increasing the security of our water supplies and reducing costs to homeowners.
The author declares an interest as a Director of the Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia because one of the popular voluntary ways to meet the BASIX water target is installation of a rainwater tank.
ABS 4102.0 Australian Social Trends Sept 2012
ABS 3236.0 – Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2011 to 2036, March 2015
BASIX website and publications https://www.basix.nsw.gov.au
BASIX 5 Years Outcome Summary Basix Building Sustainability Index, 2011
Bureau of Meteorology 2015, National performance report 2013–14: urban water utilities, Part A. Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne