Independent NSW MP Justin Field has labelled the Auditor-General’s report, released today, into Water Conservation in Greater Sydney as “scathing” and a reflection of the Liberal/National Government’s unequivocal failure to conserve Sydney’s drinking water and prepare for drought.
The Auditor-General’s report described Sydney Water’s conservation initiatives as ‘ineffective’ and revealed a complete failure by the Berejiklian Government and Sydney Water to investigate and implement water conservation initiatives in Greater Sydney.
The report found that investment in water conservation had been ‘scaled back’ since 2012, shortly after the Coalition formed Government, that key water conservation requirements contained in the Metropolitan Water Plan and Sydney Water’s operating licence had not been met, and that the Government ‘was slow to respond to drought’. The report also found that despite the drought Sydney Water has not expanded its water recycling capacity in over eight years.
Alarmingly, the Auditor-General concluded that “as a result, Greater Sydney's water supply may be less resilient to population growth and climate variability, including drought”.
Mr Field said, "This is a scathing report that shows that since the Liberal/National Government was elected, it has failed on water conservation exposing Sydney residents to a greater risk of water shortages and higher prices.
"As the biggest city on the driest continent on the planet, we should be world leaders in water conservation, but under the Coalition we are failing.
"This report should serve as a wake up call to Sydney and the Government. Our water planning needs to set clear targets for water recycling and efficiency, with regular and transparent reporting.
"This is a failure of the Government to get the policy settings right. Sydney Water's legislated mandate is to make money for the Government by selling more water. We need to reverse that and require them to build a world class, efficient water supply system that invests in water conservation, recycling, and efficiency to guarantee supply and keep prices down.
"The 2017 Metropolitan Water Plan is in desperate need of a review and update. We saw in the recent drought that almost all of the triggers in the plan were inadequate and implementation was subject to political considerations.
"The Government should bring forward the statutory review of the Metropolitan Water Plan, implement the recommendations of the Auditor General and put in place clear targets for water conservation, recycling and efficiency targets.
"The Government is trying to say these issues, including future investment in expanded desalination, will be considered in the development of the Greater Sydney Water Strategy process. This process seems to only exist on paper at this point and is likely to be more policy waffle. The policy that sets the direction for managing the water needs of Sydney is the Metropolitan Water Plan and instead of a new convoluted process, we need a review and update of that plan now.
APPENDIX: Key excerpts from NSW Auditor General Water Conservation in Greater Sydney report
Key statements (page 2):
- The Department and Sydney Water have not effectively investigated, implemented or supported water conservation initiatives in Greater Sydney.
- The agencies have not met key requirements of the Metropolitan Water Plan and Sydney Water has not met all its operating licence requirements for water conservation. There has been little policy or regulatory reform, little focus on identifying new options and investments, and limited planning and implementation of water conservation initiatives.
- As a result, Greater Sydney's water supply may be less resilient to population growth and climate variability, including drought.
- Sydney Water has been ineffective in driving water conservation initiatives, delivering detailed planning and resourcing for ongoing initiatives, and in increasing its investment in water conservation during drought. These were requirements of the Metropolitan Water Plan.
- There has also been limited collaboration, capacity building and community engagement to support water conservation, particularly outside times of drought.