Delivering a healthy working Basin for Australia: NSW local government and shires

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Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2011

Program: Water Smart Australia Program
Funding recipient: NSW Local Government and Shires Associations (LGSA) and the Water Directorate Inc.
Water for the Future funding: $7.387million
Project commencement: 2006
Project completed: June 2011

Water loss and system leakage is a significant issue for NSW local water utilities. Some water utilities lose up to one-third or more of their drinking water through system leakages.

The Water Loss Management Program is a $22 million joint initiative of the Local Government and Shires Associations (LGSA) of NSW and the Water Directorate Incorporated, with partial funding of more than $7 million from the Australian Government through the Water Smart Australia program.

Major repairs needed to fix this leak of this size photo

Major repairs needed to fix this leak of this size

The project provides water utilities with specialist knowledge and equipment to help local staff undertake water saving projects, then seek Australian Government funding.

Robert Bell, Chair of the NSW Water Loss Management Program Governance Committee, said 75 NSW regional councils have signed up to the program. Some councils have several zoned projects operating together.

Robert says the project's outcomes will be far reaching. "If you're not using electricity to pump extra water, then you're reducing your carbon footprint," he said. "Councils can also defer major capital works such as additional dams because they're recovering wasted water. It also builds community confidence in the ability of councils to manage their own systems efficiently. And water bills are lower all around."

Stewart McLeod, Deputy Chair of the NSW Water Loss Management Program said the project could achieve water savings at around $1,000 a megalitre, if not less.

"This works out to be cheaper than rebate schemes and the cost per megalitre is one of the cheapest within Australia's water industry," Stewart said.

"Our role is very hands on. We help the water utilities find leaks in their domestic water supply systems between the reservoir and people's homes, help them repair leaks, carry out ongoing monitoring and manage pressure in the water system."

"Ongoing monitoring is vital, a leak can return after it's been fixed. We're not just giving councils a more efficient system, but developing ways of sustaining efficiency in the longterm."

"We've helped some utilities save 50 per cent of their water through leakage repair. Overall the project is going to save around seven gigalitres of water over four years."

A governance committee is taking on a new approach to the usual traditional reporting between the Federal and local governments.

"We've made a big leap with this governance committee approach, not only do we receive Federal Government grants based on the committee recommendations and report how it has been spent, but we have a hands-on decision making system contributing to the high success rate of projects being delivered over a vast area of NSW," Robert said.

The governance committee includes people from the Water Directorate, the LGSA, independent members, and a representative from the Australian Government.

"It's like having a direct conduit to councils and the Federal Government at the same time. We directly interact with councils as required and add expertise to make things happen, preventing bottlenecks in decision making while ensuring the project achieves its aims and objectives. We've helped build the capacity of councils and increased communication and knowledge sharing. This type of governance committee is one of the first in Australia and it has worked exceptionally well."

 Commisioning a Pressure reducing valve photo

Commisioning a Pressure reducing valve

 Flowmeter installation during construction photo

Flowmeter installation during construction