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Get smarter with water

By Jolyon Burnett - posted Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Councils in South East Queensland have chosen the "easy" approach over the "intelligent" approach when it comes to water conservation measures.

Mandatory restrictions aim to save about 20 per cent of water use yet they target only the 15 per cent of total drinking water supply that is used to water gardens.

Not only that but the restrictions require gardeners and commercial businesses to use old-fashioned inefficient hand watering rather than smart new technology designed to save water.


Standing waving a hose over a lawn or garden is the most ineffective way to water. There is no way of knowing how much the plants need or the soil can hold. Unfortunately Level 2 restrictions in place in South East Queensland say this is the only way it can be done, and if Level 3 restrictions come into place, the bucket becomes your only watering device.

It is like saying refrigerators are using too much electricity so everyone must go back to using ice chests.

The present rules encourage inefficient practice and send confusing messages about water conservation. Governments and water authorities are missing the opportunity to encourage long-term behavioural change when it comes to water conservation.

In most states where permanent water restrictions have come into effect they realise that when it comes to watering, best practice makes sense. Only Queensland and New South Wales have not recognised that by using irrigation techniques to apply the right amount of water for plant needs at just the right time to keep them looking healthy - and at the right rate so it soaks in rather than runs off - we can reduce water consumption in gardens by 30 per cent.

The irrigation industry has invested heavily in smart technology to control water use - drip emitters, pressure regulators, time switches, low volume pop-up sprinklers and monitoring systems. In Queensland most of this technology has been banned. Is that smart?

Gardens and green spaces are being singled out to bear the brunt of saving water. Not that smart but easy to police, that's why.


If all garden watering stopped tomorrow it would save only 15 per cent of total water use. Is the other 85 per cent of water use being targeted as thoroughly?

And at what cost? Research has shown the benefits of gardens and open public spaces; adding value to homes, reducing social unrest, reducing cooling costs and improving the health and well-being of communities are just some.

The valuable community resource of gardens and open spaces are being run down and damaged and to restore them will ultimately require far more water than to maintain them.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on May 12, 2006.

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About the Author

Jolyon Burnett is chief executive officer of the Irrigation Association of Australia.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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