Water Solutions Adapted for Climate Change

By Desha, Cheryl; Hargroves, Charlie et al. | Ecos, December 2009 | Go to article overview
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Water Solutions Adapted for Climate Change


Desha, Cheryl, Hargroves, Charlie, Smith, Mike, Ecos


The Water Transformed online education package demonstrates how Australia is leading in many aspects of water management, as well as how, across a number of sectors, companies and organisations are achieving significant savings--of both water and money.

The federal Department of Climate Change and Water has allocated $3.45 million to help local government and professionals, such as engineers and architects, better manage and adapt to the effects of climate change. One initiative funded is the development of Water Transformed: Sustainable Water Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation, (1) a suite of freely available, online lecture-style resources that highlight the latest innovations, proven technologies, and leading research and practice in water management and supply.

Water management decisions over the next decade will have significant impacts on Australia's economic, environmental and social well-being. The complex challenge to adapt to the impacts of climate change will require action across the economy to respond to reduced availability and increasingly unreliable supply of water.

Here we highlight examples of water saving opportunities and initiatives across major water consuming sectors, which are covered in more detail in Water Transformed:

Agriculture: As the largest consumer of fresh water in Australia (approximately 70 per cent), and being particularly vulnerable to the drought and temperature impacts of climate change, this sector has a lot of incentive to improve its performance. Innovative land management practices such as 'time controlled grazing', 'natural sequence farming' and changing from surface channel irrigation to sprinkler and sub-surface drip irrigation has had a dramatic improvement on agricultural water efficiency in various parts of the country, by as much as 50 to 80 per cent.

Built environment: Retail, commercial and office buildings are large consumers of water, where a moderate-sized building of 10 000 [m.sup.2] can consume over 20 000 litres per day, or more than 7 million litres per year, enough to supply 40 average homes. (2) A key opportunity lies in addressing leaks, then investing in efficient amenities, and upgrading cooling systems to 'wet/dry' hybrid cooling systems. These can reduce water use by up to 80 per cent while only consuming around 5 per cent more energy than water-cooled systems. Rainwater harvesting and grey water reuse can also significantly reduce town water consumption, as can proactive maintenance and tenant education for behaviour change.

Manufacturing: Comprising a diverse mix of industries engaged in transforming materials, substances or components into consumer or industrial goods, this sector includes companies which chemically, mechanically or physically process anything from fabricated metals, food and beverages, wood, wood products and furniture, clothing and footwear, to paper, printing and publishing, and basic metal products. Water saving opportunities include identifying end-user opportunities (for example client expectations regarding whether the product is washed), checking the functionality of water handling equipment in the factory (for leaks and efficiency), and considering the potential for using alternatives to mains water supply (for example rainwater, stormwater and recycled water). Installing steam traps and condensate return systems can also provide significant savings. (4)

Food processing; Water savings are possible in this sector for a variety of operations including general processing (such as washing, rinsing, blanching, cooling, cooking, and conveying), operating specific utilities (such as boilers, cooling towers and pumps), cleaning equipment, and for auxiliary amenities such as toilet flushing and washing facilities.

Mining: As water is involved in all stages of mining processes, there are a range of opportunities to reduce its consumption, while protecting the supply and natural receiving systems.

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