Warning and Disclaimer

So this is just a blog I'm using to upload a bunch of the essays and assessment tasks I wrote for my various uni degrees. Basically I put a lot of effort into some of these and it seems a waste for them to only be read once... so I figured upload them onto the web and see if anyone looks at them.

did ok at most of my essays, some better than others so copy the ideas at your own risk... Given the slow increase in my marks over the years clearly it took me a while to get started. You can probably work out when I wrote each assessment based on the length of the reference list (and there's probably a correlation with the marks I received for that assessment too)

I had a glance over the cover sheets and don't think there's anything stopping me uploading them as I don't think the uni claims ownership over them. You sign off saying that the work has never been submitted before, not that you won't do anything with it later.

That all being said, if you do find these useful for your own uni work... DON'T copy them (not because I care about you copying them) but because you WILL get done for plagarism yourself... Take some of the main points if you want, definitely steal my reference lists, but don't copy text from the essay because you will get done...

So yeah, read on if you're interested, follow up the references... but don't copy if you know what's good for you

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sustainable Water Plan- Sydney Region

Sustainable Development of Water Resources

Fresh water is a matter of life or death in the world. It is a resource essential for life on Earth and required for virtually all environmental processes. Worldwide it is used by humans for consumption, food production, in industrial processes, in energy production and a variety of recreational activities in additional to the natural environment’s requirements (Aplin et.al., 1999).

Water has been a critical factor in development of Australia and whilst it is scarce in many parts of Australia it is in ever increasing demand. Past and current mismanagement has put even greater stress on this resource in many parts of Australia (Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2001).The demand and intensity of debate about water resources rises and falls with not only economic and social pressures but in line with natural fluctuations such as drought (Young, 2000), indeed water is never far from the public consciousness in Australia;

“Think we’re blessed that we live in Australia
But at the moment we don’t have enough water
And when we do it contains giardia”
(Chris Duke and the Royals, 2006)

Water has become an issue of increasing importance to almost unprecedented levels at all levels of government in Australia in recent years both due to drought and other political factors (Dovers, 2008). In both 2006 and 2009 water was seen as the environmental issue of most concern to residents of New South Wales. Concern for water fell between 2006 and 2009 with the breaking of the drought, showing the change in concern over water resources is related to environmental, economic and social pressures but even with this drop it remained clearly the issue of most concern (Department of Environment Climate Change and Water, 2010b).

As a concept sustainable development is one of near universal approval with the precepts of sustainability and sustainable development virtually unchallenged by people (Hattingh, 2002 and Gunder & Hillier, 2009). Despite this, or indeed perhaps due to this approval there is a looseness of concept of sustainability and sustainable development that has resulted in almost all of the stakeholders in the sustainable development process, whom is virtually every person and organisation in the world forming their own definition of what exactly sustainability and sustainable development means. The most common definition used is that of the Brundtland report, that is;

“Sustainable Development is Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (United Nations, 1987)

This is a rather open and subjective definition of sustainable development and has resulted in the vast majority of definitions of sustainable development to be broken into two broad camps, that of strong sustainability and weak sustainability. These divisions are centred mainly on how the definition balances the interaction between the 3 pillars of Sustainable Development, the environmental aspect, the social aspect and the economic aspect.

The problem in defining sustainable development in a context of urban water supply has been noted as a complicated one (Syme, 2008). As a resource water is intimately linked to these three aspects (see table 1). It is vital for environmental health and this has recently been recognised with many heavily irrigated river systems being required to maintain an environmental flow to maintain the health of the natural environment in the river’s catchment. Socially water is an important resource as it is essential for human health. Quality of life will drop dramatically for people without access to adequate amounts of safe water; this is for their own consumption and for the production of food. Additionally water is used by a number of industries and for recreational purposes. The importance of water as a valuable resource gives it a significant economic value. The extraction and treatment of water can be a costly process, alongside the treatment and disposal of water after it has been used. Ultimately it is the consumers and general public who bear these financial costs. However it is important to not cost water so heavily that people are unable access adequate amounts of water as this can not only affect the quality of life but possibly health also.

Aspect of Sustainability
How Does Water Relate
Water is required for virtually all environmental processes.
A lack of water in the natural environment can have severe impacts on habitat and species diversity.
Water is essential for human health and survival, both as a direct consumable and for the production of food.
Water is also used in human industrial processes and for a multitude of recreational activities.
A lack of convenient and safe water supply can have a severe effect on the quality of life for the people affected.
Water is an extremely valuable resource, especially in Australia.
The collection and treatment of water is an expensive process. These costs are carried by both government and private industry however it is eventually the consumers and general public whom are forced to bear these costs.
Additionally a lack of water naturally due to seasonal variations can have severe economic effects on food production and other industries.
Table 1- Water and the 3 Pillars of Sustainable Development

When the above factors are combined it becomes apparent that any plan for the sustainable management of water resources needs to carefully balance the need for water between three aspects of sustainable development. This means that a sustainable water management plan needs to be able to balance the supply of water for people’s social and economic needs with the need of that water in the natural environment. Additionally the economic cost of water needs to be kept as reasonable as possible so as to not deny the socio-economically disadvantaged access to the water they need for health and quality of life.

Water in the Sydney Region

As the Sydney region encompasses many local government areas the management of water in the Sydney region is considered a responsibility of the New South Wales State Government. Management of these water resources is the Sydney Water Corporation. For this reason the Sustainable Water Plan for Sydney will cover the same area of operations as Sydney Water. Sydney water provides water, waste water services and limited stormwater services to over 4 million people in the Sydney Basin, The Blue Mountains and the Illawarra (see figure 1).

The current system of water supply in Sydney is a very one way system where water is collected in dams, treated and pumped to the consumer where it is used. The waste water is then removed sent to a treatment plant and then released, with the majority of this water being released into the ocean. The major problem with this system is the linear nature as this doesn’t resemble the natural cyclical water cycle process. The population of Sydney is also increasing, with the supply of water remaining at the same level, so far increases in population haven’t greatly increased the demand for water do to increases in water use efficiency. It is therefore hoped that further increases to water use efficiency will help mitigate the increase on demand from future increases in population.

Figure 1 (not included here)- Area of Operations for Sydney Water (Sydney Water, 2010)

A Sustainable Water Plan for Sydney

Water is also one of the issues that New South Wales residents feel is going to increase in importance in the next decade (Department of Environment Climate Change and Water, 2010a). If this is the case the planning for this needs to occur now, rather than in 10 years time and that is where the Sustainable Water Plan for Sydney comes in.

A sustainable water plan for Sydney is one that is provides adequate supplies of safe water to as much of the population of the city at a reasonable economic cost, whilst having as little impact on the environment as possible. These three pillars can be seen in the three principle objectives of Sydney water, to protect public health, to protect the environment and maintain a successful business (Sydney Water, 2010).

The water supply for Sydney can vary dramatically (as shown in figure 2).and this means that supplies of water that are not rainfall reliant would be of use in Sydney.

Figure 2 (not included here)- Water Supply and Storage in Sydney (Sydney Catchment Authority, 2010)

There are two main approaches to water management and ensuring the supply of water to the population. The two approaches are demand management and supply management.

Demand management is increasing the efficiency of water use by consumers at the consumptive end. Historically demand management in Sydney has been a relatively successful process with the Sydney region using similar amounts of water now (in 2010) as it did in the 1970s despite the greater population. This shows that an expanding population does not necessarily require greater water supply if increases to efficiency can be continued (Sydney Water, 2010). Currently the majority of Sydney water’s demand management occurs through the Water 4 Life initiative. Historically demand management has been a voluntary process for residents due to the legal and ethical issues of enforcing how people use water in their homes; however the water restrictions and current water 4 life rules are enforceable with fines issued by authorised officers. The Water 4 life rules replace the previous level 0 and level 1 water restrictions, however level 2 and 3 restrictions can still be implemented if water levels in the dams drop below pre existing thresholds. In the Sydney reason demand management focuses strongly on residential water use as this is 70% of the water used in Sydney and it is hoped that water saving measures by residents and businesses will save 145 Billion Litres of water a year by 2015. (Sydney Water, 2010)

There is little room for major changes in the demand management side of water management in Sydney. This is due to the fact that water wise rules and water restrictions can only apply to water use outside of residential houses, this leaves water saving and efficiency measures for the water used inside the house an entirely voluntary process. Education and advertising can encourage people to be more efficient but dramatic changes to water price to encourage people to save water can have a negative effect on people’s ability to access the water they require for health and quality of life, especially people under financial hardship for other reasons.

There is greater flexibility in the supply management aspect of the Sustainable Water Plan for Sydney. This is finding new supplies of water for the region which are if possible not rainfall reliant. Four potential supply solutions would be a new dam system in Sydney, stormwater harvesting, desalination and water recycling. The first two of these solutions are less appropriate for a number of reasons. First of all both these systems are rainfall reliant so would not serve to alleviate water stress in drought conditions. There are few suitable locations for a new dam in Sydney due to the pre existing development and the most suitable location at Welcome Reef has been placed on indefinite hold (Sydney Catchment Authority, 2002). Stormwater harvesting is a more complicated issue for Sydney Water as Sydney Water doesn’t maintain the majority of the storm water systems in the region. The local council is in charge of storm water maintenance so it would need to occur on a council by council basis.

The Kurnell Desalination plant was a relatively controversial decision that was made, but now that it is in operation it supplies 15% of Sydney’s water needs with the potential to increase to 30%. As it is using sea water it is not reliant on rainfall and can increase production when there is need. However there was a large cost both environmentally and economically by the construction of the plant. However the majority of this economic cost and much of the environmental cost was during the construction of the plant and as this investment has been made the continued use of the desalination plant a much more reasonable option when compared with the costs for decommissioning it and developing an alternate system (WSAA, 2010).

The final option for supply management of water in Sydney is water recycling. The goal here is to move away from the current once through water system to a closed off water cycle. By closing off the water cycle it treats waste water as a resource to be utilised not waste to be disposed of. Recycled water can be used for non drinking purposes and treated accordingly or it can be used for drinking and treated accordingly, this is called indirect potable reuse. Once again the big advantage for this process is it is not reliant on rainfall and there is even less environmental impact than desalination. Recycled water for non drinking purposes is generally supported by communities, but water of non drinking water quality can only used for about 30% of the water use in a household. Another issue with this form of water recycling is the new pipe system required which limits this system primarily to new growth areas.

Indirect potable reuse is a more controversial proposal, and in Sydney would involve treating it to a high level and pumping it into the upper Nepean River to feedback into Warragamba dam. There are both major advantages and disadvantages to this system. The is less new infrastructure required and therefore it is a solution for all on Sydney rather than a particular area, however there are economic costs in the pumping system to move the water around Sydney. The treatment system is almost identical to the desalination process so the cost there is similar. Finally there is much more community opposition to drinking recycled water in Australia, despite the frequency of this process being used overseas. This social stigma is the main hold up for indirect potable reuse in Australia as the technology is as reliable as other potable water sources (Smith, 2005).

No single method listed above will provide the solution to the water management and supply issues in Sydney. A sustainable water plan for Sydney would attempt to balance the environmental, social and economic factors involved in providing water to residents in the Sydney region. The growing population of Sydney will require both more water and more reliable water and this will only be managed through a system of demand management and supply management. New sources of water for Sydney will most reliably be found either through a combination of desalination and water recycling. Both these supply systems will have an environmental cost and economic cost, but these costs are required to be able to provide for people’s social need, that is access to clean reliable water to maintain their health and quality of life.


Aplin, G., Beggs, P., Brierley, G., Cleugh, H., Curson, P., Mitchell, P., Pitman, A. & Rich, D. (1999) Global Environmental Crises: an Australian perspective 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, Melbourne

Australian State of the Environment Committee (2001) Australia State of the Environment 2001, Independent Report to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage, CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra.

Chris Duke and the Royals (2006) Water, Scissors, Paper, Rock!, Audio CD, Electric Sun Productions, Sydney

Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, (2010a) Who Cares About the Environment in 2009? A survey of NSW people’s environmental knowledge, attitudes and behaviours, NSW Government: Sydney

Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, (2010b) Who Cares About the Environment in 2009? At a glance, NSW Government: Sydney

Dovers, S. (2008) Urban Waters: Policy, Institutions and Government, in P. (ed) Troubled Waters: Confronting the Water Crisis in Australia’s Cities, ANU epress, Canberra

El Saliby I, Olour, Y, Shon HK, Kandasamy J & Kim S (2009) Desalination plants in Australia, review and facts,

Gunder, M. & Hillier, J. (2009) Planning in ten words or less, Ashgate, Sustainability of and for the market.

Hattingh, J. (2002) On the imperative of sustainable development A philosophical and ethical appraisal in Janse van Rensburg et. Al. 2002 Environmental Education, Ethics and Action in Southern Africa. Pretoria

Misra BM & Kupitz, J (2004) The role of nuclear desalination in meeting the potable water needs in water scarce areas in the next decades, Desalination 166, pp 1-9

National Water Commission, (2007), Using recycled water for drinking: An Introduction, Waterlines Occasional Paper No 2, GHD, Australian Government: Canberra. Located at http://www.nwc.gov.au/resources/documents/using-recy-water-drinking-body-Waterlines-0607.pdf last accessed November 2010

NSW Office of Water (2010) 2010 Metropolitan Water Plan, NSW Government: Sydney

Smith S. (2005) Desalination, waste water, and the Sydney Metropolitan Water Plan, Briefing Paper No 10/05, NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service: Sydney located at http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/publications.nsf/0/D92DB6F939EAC6FECA2570680025DA5E/$File/Desalination%20and%20index.pdf last accessed November 2010

Sydney Catchment Authority (2002) Water Saving Efforts Stop $1 billion dam and Create New Nature Reserve, Media Release available at http://www.sca.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/march-2002/water-saving-efforts-stop-$1billion-dam-and-create-new-nature-reserve last accessed November 2010

Sydney Catchment Authority (2010) Water Storage and Supply Report available at http://www.sca.nsw.gov.au/dams-and-water/weekly-storage-and-supply-reports/2010/4-november-2010 last accessed November 2010

Sydney Water (2010) Area of Operations available at http://www.sydneywater.com.au/OurSystemsAndOperations/images/AreaOfOperations.jpg last accessed November 2010

Sydney Water Corporation (2010) Desalination, www.sydneywater.com.au/Water4Life/desalination

Sydney Water Corporation (2010) Water for Life, www.waterforlife.nsw.gov.au/desalination

Syme, G. (2008) Sustainability in Urban Water Futures, in Troy, P. (ed) Troubled Waters: Confronting the Water Crisis in Australia’s Cities, ANU epress, Canberra

United Nations (1987) Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future found at http://www.un-documents.net/ocf-02.htm last accessed November 2010

Water Technology Net (2010) Desalination, www.water-technology.net

Water Technology Net (2010) White Paper: Solar-Driven Desalination with Reverse Osmosis. Located at www.water-technology.net/downloads/whitepapers/environmental/file1524 last accessed November 2010

WSAA (2006) Refilling the Glass; Exploring the issues surrounding water recycling in Australia, Water Services Association of Australia Position Paper No. 2. located at https://www.wsaa.asn.au/Publications/Documents/WSAAPositionPaper2%20Refilling%20the%20Glass.pdf last accessed November 2010

WSAA (2010) Implications of population growth in Australia on urban water resources, Water Services Association of Australia, Occasional Paper No. 25

Young, A. (2000) Environmental Change in Australia since 1788 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press Melbourne

No comments:

Post a Comment