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CAN AUSTRALIANS SEE THROUGH MUDDY WATERS? A VISION FOR AUSTRALIA’S WATER FUTURE A position paper by The 2008 Sustainability Youth Forum Participants: Jane Maxwell, Jack Brown, Jai Allison, Yohanna Aurisch, Allan O'Connor, Ana Maria Gracioso Martins, Rachel McEvoy, Kate Patkin, Elizabeth Hurst

Context On September 6, a group of passionate young students and professionals from a variety of backgrounds, attended the EIANZ Sustainability Youth Forum to consider four challenges facing Australia – Water, Waste, Climate Change and Social Sustainability. This position paper outlines the thoughts and findings of the water stream. The water panel considered the complexities of Australia’s water situation including; environmental degradation, agricultural and industrial needs, household water requirements, valuation of water, centralised supply systems, and embodied water. An optimistic and insightful discussion enabled a future to be envisioned for Australia, one that helps to address our current water problems and issues. Key facets of the paper include the use of economics and education to facilitate a revaluation of water, an adjustment of attitudes toward water and a restructuring of supply systems, all of which would ultimately result in a more sustainable future for the environment, society and the economy.

Vision To realise the true value of water to achieve sustainable outcomes and behaviour. Issues Knowledge Low awareness of the multifaceted value of water and practical mechanisms of water conservation

Objectives To raise awareness of: • the impacts of water use at each level of the water cycle • ways to conserve water • embodied water consumption

Possible Strategies • Community and school field trips, run by council or government • Community involvement in research and data collection • Public advertisement and education through media • Implementation a labelling scheme about embodied water, ‘Virtual Water’


Issues Behaviour Unsustainable habits; supported by social norms and a lack of connection between communities and their natural resources

Objectives To encourage: • individual responsibility for their water use and the water shortage • the community to apply political pressure on the government and • to bridge the gap between rural and city water users/producers

Measurement A lack of understanding of the interactions and intricacies of the water cycle

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Create accurate scientific tools for water assessment and planning Greatly increase government and industry understanding through research and monitoring Encourage businesses to utilise more comprehensive valuation methods in their practices

Possible Strategies • Encourage the government to establish regulations and financial incentives to reduce water use • Introduction of consistently high water restrictions which represent a more logical approach to our water situation • Introduction of a quota for water consumption and a tiered water price system • Lower cost for subsistence needs • Taxing of excessive/luxury water use achieving a price inline with its true economic, social and environmental value/cost • Financial reward for belowquota water use • Advertise about the health effects of a water-degraded environment • Create community focus groups • Provision of government funding into development of measurement tools and for financial incentives/assistance for businesses who act independently • Research into water balances, dynamics, ecological services, climate interactions • Incorporate ecological services into business plans, strategies and feasibility studies


Issues Catchment management A need for greater investment in sustainable technology for water management at all scales

Objectives • Appropriate and effective management of water at all scales • Govern and facilitate at a national level, but manage at a local catchment level – remove political boundaries • Facilitation of appropriate technologies into standard applications • Encourage viable, long-term and sustainable systems and strategies • Improve our ability to share technologies, methods and approaches among different communities and internationally

Possible Strategies • Fund a mechanism for business investment in technology for adaptation of increased value of water • Fairer distribution of water saving responsibilities between households, agriculture and industry • Development and implementation of technology appropriate to scale and outcome; within broader environmental considerations • Development of Water Sensitive Urban Design • Better understanding and use of natural biological processes

Connections between need, demand and supply Insufficient distinction between water need versus demand

• Development of standardised assessment methodology of business and domestic value of water • Introduction of a quota for water consumption and a tiered water price system • Encouragement and enforcement of the use of rainwater capture for all appropriate sites and surfaces • Household scale recycling • Re-evaluation of the way the government values water • The value of water must be reflected in its final price • Re-evaluation of the priority

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Political approach and leadership As the primary change agent, there is a need for the Government to adopt a balanced, long-term perspective which represents all parties, including the environment

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Encourage independence and the adoption of decentralised systems of water supply Breaking the paradigm “economy of scale” when applied to water use Reduce dependence on bulk sources

The primary responsibility of government should be to achieve true sustainability for water Manage for the worst case scenario, but in a way that is sensitive to environmental needs



Objectives Possible Strategies government gives to the environment in • Healthy ecosystems and environments all its policy and decision making; as the primary aim of water considering the pervasive effects of management, for through this, human environmental degradation on needs will be better met communities, foods, natural flora and • View water not as a resource, but as a fauna, and the economy basic life requirement, and using this premise, manage not by what is consumed, but rather by what is ‘not used’

Where to from here? In conclusion, it is fundamental for Australia to substantially alter its perception and management policies concerning water. Collapsing ecosystems, struggling farmers, stressed reservoirs all provide us with a stark warning, that we are dangerously overexploiting our natural environments. These warnings are offering us an opportunity to refocus and move away from unsustainable practices and policies before it is too late. Leadership from communities, businesses and political parties is essential to catalyse a much needed move in the way we view water, and to help recognise our impacts and relationships with the environment. An increased understanding and redefinition of how industry, agriculture and households manage and use water is crucial to achieve water sustainability, and will dramatically benefit water supplies and provide impetus for continuing actions. This paper has identified a need for a distinction between need versus want, a greater awareness of the broader value of water and its consumption, and more appropriate measurement techniques. Current policies involving incremental change are proving to be insufficient and show that ultimately, a paradigm shift is required. A realisation of the true value of water is needed for a sustainable future.