How The Northern Star broke the story, on November 12, 2010.
How The Northern Star broke the story, on November 12, 2010.

At least 15% of water lost from pipes before it reaches home

AGEING pipes across the region are continuing to leak at least 15% of precious drinking water according to Rous Water technical services director Wayne Franklin.

Yet with Rous Water's own losses accounting for just 2-4% of the total, the vast majority of leaks (the remaining 12-14%) are coming from member councils' own reticulated water systems.

Mr Franklin said leakage control was "likely the biggest issue" in terms of sustaining the region's current water supply.

"Before we go trying to take more water out of the environment for human use, we really need to make sure the system is efficient, and that's what leakage control is about," Mr Franklin said.

Leakage is principally caused by deteriorating pipes, and while each council has a renewals program, budgets are rarely enough to keep up with the work required.

Rous Water is currently developing a long-range program to secure the region's water supply until 2060, dubbed the Future Water Strategy.

It's a two-pronged strategy, on one side seeking to control usage levels, while also finding new sources of water.

Under the supply-side microscope are large projects such as the proposed Dunoon Dam and coastal desalination plants, alongside an array of smaller, more flexible options such as effluent recycling and tapping into groundwater.

Mr Franklin said the introduction of demand-management strategies (such as rainwater tanks) since the 1990s had almost halved water consumption in NSW, but offered diminishing returns.

With total water demand now expected to rise, the race is on to identify the right mix of water supply options.

Mr Franklin said the big, "first up spend all your money" options weren't always adaptable to changing conditions and demand, but did offer a guaranteed supply.

Yet with climate change estimates currently predicting dramatic changes to patterns of rainfall and runoff post-2030, the traditional "secure yield" of dams may not be so secure in the future.

ROUS WATER REBATES

Rainwater tanks: From $100 to $1500 depending on size and functionality.

Dual-flush toilets: $50

Showerhead: 50% of the showerhead and installation costs.

Shower "paddle" valve: $100.

More info: rouswater.nsw.gov.au.