Water waste everywhere but no fines in four years
Date February 22, 2013
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SYDNEY WATER has not issued a single fine to residents for hosing down their driveway or using a sprinkler in the middle of the day, allowing water wasters off the hook for the past four years.
The public have reported more than 2200 alleged breaches to Sydney Water, all of which were investigated. It issued 71 warnings but no fines.
The findings come as the utility abandons its decade-long push to save water, despite figures showing household usage in Sydney has outstripped most other cities.
Tough water restrictions were lifted in mid-2009 after years of drought and replaced by permanent measures known as Water Wise rules.
They ban the watering of gardens between 10am and 4pm and stipulate that all hand-held hoses must have a trigger nozzle. Surfaces such as paths and driveways should not be hosed.
Breaches attract fines of $220 for individuals and $550 for businesses. But figures show not a single fine has been handed out since the rules began.
A spokeswoman for Sydney Water said it could not issue a fine ”on the basis of a neighbour’s report”. ”We need to witness the breach or have other solid evidence that will stand up in court,” she said.
The chief executive of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Pepe Clarke, said it raised questions about Sydney Water’s effectiveness as a water watchdog. ”To have such a large number of allegations and investigations but to not issue a penalty for a single one of them suggests that Sydney Water is not taking its role as a regulator seriously,” he said.
As Fairfax Media reported on Thursday, Sydney Water has dumped water saving programs for schools, businesses and households. It claims that continuing to drive down use would cost more than the value of the water saved, which would lead to an increase in bills.
Warragamba Dam is near full capacity and recent water use matches that of four years ago, when the state was in the grip of drought and extensive restrictions and water efficiency programs were in place.
However, critics said drier conditions would return and abandoning the programs undermined years of efforts to change water use culture. The CSIRO predicts that by 2030 southern Australia may receive up to 10 per cent less rainfall.
The latest National Water Commission performance report shows that average water use by Sydney Water households was second only to Perth in the three years to mid-2011.
The Sydney Water spokeswoman said restrictions were lifted earlier in Sydney than in Melbourne and Brisbane, where dam levels had reached lower levels, which influenced use. ”Water use is not easily comparable on a year-on-year basis across utilities,” she said.
But Mr Clarke questioned why Sydney Water was cutting investment in water saving when consumption remained high compared with other cities.
The director of the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, Stuart White, said Sydney Water had led the way in water saving programs but there was ”more to be done”. He said cuts in efficiency spending had been mirrored by utilities around the country.
Mr White did not object to a move away from large-scale water recycling, saying smaller, local schemes lowered the cost of carrying water through pipes.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/water-issues/water-waste-everywhere-but-no-fines-in-four-years-20130221-2euba.html#ixzz2LZo83pHs