Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Environment spokesperson
In TasWater’s Government Business Enterprise hearings today, the Greens discovered Stage 1 water restrictions for the Hobart area have been driven by factors beyond the recent heavy rainfall. It is clear from TasWater’s comments that Tasmania desperately needs careful, coordinated and sustainable management of river catchments.
Heavy rainfalls have without doubt added pressure to Hobart’s drinking water system, however TasWater identified a range of existing environmental and usage factors that affect drinking water supply. Nutrient pollution from fish farm hatcheries in the upper Derwent River, and agricultural operations, directly impact upon the rate at which water can made safe for drinking.
TasWater may wish to point the finger at heavy rainfall as the cause of water restrictions, but the impact of extreme weather events would be dramatically reduced if the Government made the health of rivers and catchment management a top priority.
The GBE hearing also heard the increasing demand for water over summer was a key consideration behind residential restrictions. A significant portion of this demand will come from TasWater providing drinking water to farmers for irrigation.
Water restrictions have been placed on Hobart residential customers from 14th December, but there has been no limit proposed for drinking water supplied to farmers for irrigation in the South East.
Drinking water is supposed to be the highest supply priority, and the core business of TasWater.
Even after the heaviest October rainfall since 1943, TasWater’s restrictions show how tenuous drinking water supply security can be in Tasmanian catchments, and how it is directly linked to healthy Tasmanian rivers.
Minister Barnett’s repeated denial of the need for an environment first, urban and rural, integrated approach to water management is short-sighted and dangerous.