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Climate change behind plan for longer household restrictions

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The Queensland Government wants households to prepare for longer water restrictions so it can avoid having to build “unnecessary” infrastructure.

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South-east Queensland water rules currently specify that medium level water restrictions should last no longer than one year on average. In periods of prolonged drought, that can leave dam levels low enough that the government has to intervene to provide emergency supplies.

But a discussion paper released by the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water sets the scene for longer household restrictions to help balance out the extremes of climate change – and save money in the process.

“The current specification that medium level water restrictions should last no longer than one year on average might lead to unnecessary construction of infrastructure that will rarely be used,” the paper states.

The proposed change would require the SEQ Water Grid to be able to supply enough water so that medium level or more severe restrictions “will not last longer than five per cent of the time on average”. It is estimated such restrictions currently apply only three per cent of the time, and the proposed change would be to duration rather than the 140 litre per day limit (current, unrestricted residential usage is around 170 litres per day). 

The government believes properly administered water restrictions can delay or avoid the need for more than $3 billion in water infrastructure and, in turn, help keep water prices down. Climate change will only “increase the severity and duration of drought”.

“The choice is to spend on infrastructure that would be idle for much of the time (ie generally only used during drought until the population grows and increases the water demand), or have water restrictions for a greater (but still relatively small) proportion of the time to avoid such expenditure,” the paper states.

Previous Labor governments spent billions of dollars on pipelines, desalination and water recycling plants, and built the Wyaralong Dam. In recent years, however, water has still been trucked to some areas, as the government fast-tracked long distance pipeline connections. 

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