With drought having now seized 100 per cent of the state, and spring on our doorstep, we’ve reinstated the bucket in the shower.
This water-scavenging regime was adopted in our household during the last Sydney drought. It proved effective. Two showers filled one bucket, which we could use to water the azaleas. It is probably the best we city-dwellers can do daily, apart from shortening the length of our shower time.
But with dam levels across Sydney at 65 per cent, and in light of the fact it will take months for Sydney’s desalination plant to reach full operating capacity, the possibility is increasing that water restrictions will be imposed on Sydneysiders before the year’s end. NSW Utilities Minister Don Harwin has already asked Sydney residents "to think about their water use and opportunities to conserve this precious resource".
There is still one day of winter left, yet for much of the past few weeks, the temperature has been reaching the early 20s by midday. Each day we are aware of the lack of rainfall. And the Bureau of Meteorology’s long range forecast is looking grim. "Much of eastern and southern mainland Australia are less likely to see widespread respite in the coming season from current dry conditions," the bureau states. Respite means rain. There’s not going to be much of it.
While those living in rural and regional parts of the state have to watch with their hands tied as rain tanks, rivers and dam levels fall, the five million residents of Sydney are fortunate to have a desalination plant available to convert sea water into potable clean water when we need it. Lucky us.
Despite the criticisms and controversies raised at the time it was built, the desal plant ensures there will always be water on tap, as long as it’s turned on in time. The plant is meant to kick in when dam levels hit 60 per cent. Working at 100 per cent efficiency, the plant can generate 15 per cent of Greater Sydney’s water needs.
But to return to the bucket habit. If three million Sydneysiders saved one 10-litre bucket of water over a period of five days a week for a year, this would save almost 8000 megalitres of water.
To get an idea of how much this is, one Olympic-sized pool holds about 2.5 megalitres of water. The bucket trick could prevent eight billion litres of quality water from going straight down the drain.
That should keep the azaleas blooming.
- Dr Suzanne Rickard is a Sydney writer.