The Rainwater Harvesting Association has organised a breakfast to talk about Housing Design on 20 April in Sydney. Australia needs to build 4 million new houses in Australia by 2036, a 50% increase from 2011. What do we want and what do we need from these houses? Almost every article we read about sustainable houses seems to include rainwater harvesting, solar panels, passive design features. These features clearly work so why do so many of us have houses without them? What should we do to build great houses and reduce our costs, enjoy our houses more, pay less taxes, and raise healthy families?
Authors: Prof. PJ Coombes and Michael Smit “Water bills to rise as desal plant gets the go-ahead to start making water for the first time” This heading, from a newspaper article in The Age on 6 March, caught our eye from our respective desks, so we called up and had a yarn, and some questions came up for us. We typically investigate multiple data sources to fully understand these issues. We make a living from these kinds of questions but some of the answers were a little startling.
This report was funded by the Californians and responds to the Californian drought crisis by summarising the lessons learnt in Australia from the Millenium drought. This quote caught our eye “The 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.”
The second in our series of maintenance articles for rainwater harvesting systems is on pumps. Pumps are one of the expensive and vulnerable elements of the rain harvesting system. It is worth getting a good one and installing it properly. We had a coffee with Mike Thompson, from Claytech, who took us through some things to think about.
About 4 million new Australian households are projected by 2036, a 50% increase from 2011. (ABS, 2015). The design standards for these buildings are fundamental to future urban energy and water needs but performance based water and energy saving targets are missing or not consistent across Australia.
To quote Colin Nash, the champion Chairman of the Rainwater Harvesting Association, “The gun has gone off”, we are not waiting for the start anymore, we are up and running. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has been working closely on rainwater harvesting since
“The key issue is that good design based on real historical knowledge avoids most of the perceived maintenance problems – a high level of costly (and unnecessary) maintenance to counter marginal/ill-informed design choices is a very poor outcome indeed”. Dr. Peter Coombes, March 2014, Sydney RHAA Breakfast. Good design is a simple way to ensure rainwater is healthy, clean, clear and doesn’t smell.
Rainwater Harvesting is only one element of an integrated water cycle management approach. However rainwater harvesting is an integrated solution, it creates synergies of individual benefits that have a disproportionate effect across the whole system.
Particularly for the capital cities the context for drought is radically different to that in 2002 when the Millenium drought was starting to bite. Significant investment in water infrastructure means that we are unlikely to run out of water, however the cost of water will increase as we shift to desalinated water sources. SEQWater have foreshadowed they will become permanently reliant on desalinated water from Summer 2020 (Brisbane Times, 2015).
“Wisdom cries out in the street, in the square she raises her voice, at the busiest corner she cries out, at the entrance to the city gates she speaks” Proverbs 1 20-21 At the gates of Melbourne in Federation Square on a busy Friday morning, Dr Peter Coombes presented the arguments for water targets for sustainable buildings in Australia.