Our planet

Sustainable Households, Systems Insights, Real Data

By Professor PJ Coombes and Michael Smit When most people talk about sustainability they talk about and analyse separate elements, a rainwater tank, solar panels, recycling, orientation, cross ventilation. How much does that element cost, what will that element produce, how much will that element save?

The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed

Drawing of new housingYes, it was a big call but at the breakfast on 20 April in Sydney  Josh, Caroline and Scott delivered a very impressive vision of the future of Australian House Design. Thanks team, the world owes you a fine wine. Josh Byrne laid out the blueprint, literally, for Josh’s house. In summary

The Future of Australian Housing Design Breakfast Event

Josh ByrneThe 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?

Household water expenditure, utility operating costs, desalination

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.

Managing Drought: Learning from Australia

IllustrationThis 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.”

Who you gonna call?

Bush Tank StandBack in the day…. we all maintained our water tanks beautifully and whittled our own furniture in the long summer evenings. In the modern world however we sometimes need a hand making sure we are getting the best from our rainwater harvesting systems.

A Sustainable Building Policy for Australia

BASIX five year outcomes summaryAbout 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.

Rainwater Harvesting goes mainstream – ABS Water Account 2013/14

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

El Nino 2015 and the Cost of Water

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).

El Nino 2015, getting hot

map of warm water in eastern pacificOn 2nd October  Tasmania and Victoria were experiencing bushfires in Spring. On the 7th of October the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) started issuing multiple media alerts. The Indian Ocean had cooled down creating dryer conditions, September was the third driest on record and October is likely to be one of the warmest on record. On 8th October the BOM issued special climate statement 52 for unusual early season heat for southern Australia. Inland Queensland and Western Victoria have been dry for three years. While the big dry has generally stayed away from Coastal cities Townsville water storages have reached 30%, triggering Stage 2 water restrictions.