Sustainable Buildings Save Billions – An Alternative Water Strategy for Sydney

By Michael Smit, Rainwater Harvesting Australia.

Kingspan Water & Energy and Urban Water Cycle Solutions have proposed a alternative solution for meeting the water challenges in our cities – the focus is on improving the performance of our buildings. If we can make relatively small changes to make each building more efficient in how it uses water, captures local water and manages stormwater generated from the site the savings for the whole community are immense. The report finds that the Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) State Planning Policy has had very significant benefits in reducing water costs for the people of Greater Sydney through encouraging widespread use of rainwater tanks in new developments.

Taking a ‘Business as Usual’ approach between now and 2050 will increase the demand for water in Sydney by 80% by 2050, increasing water charges by over 100% to $2.3B in 2020 dollars, However, without BASIX, the additional charges would be another $5B in additional supply augmentation and the costs of producing and pumping more than 70 billion litres of additional water each year.

BASIX uses new buildings to provide solutions for Sydney, rather than contributing to existing problems in water supply, wastewater disposal, efficiency and stormwater management. By linking building design solutions to new development the solutions are implemented at the same time as the growth occurs, not decades later when the problems become overwhelming.

“Water Governance in Australia is about rewarding the industry for building large infrastructure. Water efficiency and small local solutions don’t fit the business model but the rewards for the general public and economy are much greater. This is why the Auditor General found that water utilities could do so much better on water efficiency” Professor Peter Coombes, report author

“This is really exciting research, turning traditional water management upside down and putting the building at the centre of urban water management. The benefits for the public, in reduced costs, reduced wastage, greater resilience and engaging with natural systems are immense” Stuart Heldon, Business Unit Director Kingspan Water & Energy

The report considers four scenarios using highly awarded research methodology. The scenarios look at Business as Usual, with BASIX, what would happen if we didn’t have BASIX, improving BASIX to address urban stormwater and shifting water pricing to fully variable prices to reward householders for reducing demand for utility water.

The report finds the single most effective change is to give customers better information and more control over what they pay. This delivers the greatest savings of all the four scenarios, an astonishing $7B of savings by 2050.

The report is available at Kingspan Water & Energy with a short video describing the report and Urban Water Cycle Solutions.