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30 April, 2021

Too much water, but not enough

Economic development is dependent upon two key assets. A reliable and affordable supply of both electricity and water.

By Peter McCullagh

It is disturbing to read this week that our city’s increased need for water will exceed existing capacity in the next 5 years.

Whilst water efficiencies have been achieved with a 42% reduction in per capita water use over the past 15 years, the current situation is unsustainable, and Council proposes to budget $215 million as it plans for the delivery of the single largest project to secure our water supply for the future.

Currently we use on average 400 litres per person per day in Cairns. With a population approaching 200,000 users that represents a serious long-term issue for Cairns, hence the need for infrastructure upgrades by Council.

According to Council our nearest major neighbour consumes 700 litres per person per day, making our daily consumption acceptable.

We need two strategies to secure our water supply for the future. Yes, we will need infrastructure upgrades. But we also need to seriously step up our water conservation efforts.

400 litres per person per day, NOT per household per day, but per person, is too much.

SEQWater, the governing body for Brisbane and Gold Coast reports water usage each 14 day period.

The City of Gold Coast is very similar to Cairns in composition. Large population along with large numbers of tourists visiting is currently using 173 litres per person per day, and they had less than 6mm of rain in the last reporting week.

Logan City residents use 145 litres per person per day whilst Redland Council residents consume 174 litres per person per day.

So how can we justify 400 litres per person per day, and still plan for a massive infrastructure project valued at $215 million dollar.

A combined approach is needed. We must slash our daily consumption to an acceptable level. 400 litres per person per day is not appropriate. 200 litres per person per day would see our current  supply life double.

How can we reduce water useage?

• Accelerate the rollout of water smart meters.

• Identify leakage in our mains supply

• Regulate the public space watering to conserve water

• Change our public space gardens to reflect sturdier drought resistant plants

• Incentivise household to upgrade plumbing fixtures to water efficient fittings

• Commence an ongoing campaign promoting water wise usage

Whatever it takes, we need to do. 400 litres per person per day sounds ok when compared to 700 litres in Townsville, but we are failing badly when we compare ourselves to the Gold Coast.

My plea to Council and the Councillors, would be to look at infrastructure development, but what are we doing about halving the average daily consumption in Cairns?

I know we are surrounded by excesses of water, but we have only a finite resource (supply). Water management includes a plan to manage the consumption as well as build capacity.

The latest offering from Council does not address the ongoing management and reduction of wastage.


Peter McCullagh


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