Disagreement over new groundwater plan to minimize effects of climate change on Perth and Peel

A new groundwater scheme aimed at reducing the effects of climate change on Perth’s water resources has drawn the ire of some experts.

On Friday, WA Water Minister Dave Kelly announced the new Gnangara groundwater scheme and a list of garden bore sprinklers to reduce water consumption.

Households with a garden borehole in the Perth and Peel regions have until September 1 to prepare for a new watering schedule which limits the use of boreholes to twice a week.

The plan also gives major authorized water users north of the Swan River, including industry, irrigators and local governments, six years to reduce their groundwater use by 10%.

The WA Government believes the plan will ensure that Perth remains a green and livable city.(ABC News: James Carmody )

The Water Corporation pledged in a statement to reduce groundwater withdrawals by 27% by 2028.

Certain industries, including schools, hospitals and commercial nurseries, are exempt from the reduction.

“Time is not on our side”: the Minister of Water

In a statement, Mr Kelly said the plan would minimize the impact of climate change.

“By making small changes to everyone in the way they use groundwater, we can deliver environmental benefits, provide industry with clarity and certainty, and protect this valuable resource for future generations,” said he declared.

A medium shot of Dave wearing a dark blue shirt, leaning on a wooden post in a backyard, looking away
Water Minister Dave Kelly said the government must act immediately.(ABC News: Rebecca Turner)

Mr Kelly said there was no choice but to act quickly.

“Time is not on our side. We need to make changes and that’s why this plan makes important changes. But if we implement them, we can still have a green and livable city.”

“I think there is an imbalance”: hydrogeologist

Perth-based hydrogeologist Ian Hunt said the onset of spring was too early to expect households to prepare for change.

“If you look at other heavy users, it’s almost six years in the future.

“I think there is an imbalance. Stopping garden borehole users is easy and quick, but I don’t think it solves the problem.”

Sprinklers connected to a hose spraying water in a garden
Mr Hunt thinks new rules for home drill users are coming too quickly.

Mr Hunt said the state government was tiptoeing around some of the glaring problems with the water supply.

If you think it won’t affect you, “you’re good to go”: gardening expert

Horticulturist Sabrina Hahn told ABC Radio Perth the move will lead to a huge increase in hand watering and will also have a massive effect on district heating.

“Can Water Corp, which is of course going to get huge revenue from people switching to hand watering, can it cope with this big increase?”

Ms Hahn said the move would reduce the number of gardens in Perth.

“People are going to say, ‘oh we can’t water the garden, don’t have any, or we’ll put succulents or cacti in it.’

A mid shot of Sabrina Hahn smiling and sitting in a garden wearing a floral top.
Gardening expert Sabrina Hahn thinks the changes will lead to fewer gardens and make Perth a warmer city.(Provided: Sabrina Hahn)

“This is going to have a massive effect on district heating.”

Ms Hahn said that in five years, 50% of the existing garden will be rebuilt and the ripple effect of district heating will impact the city’s inhabitants.

Ms Hahn said WA’s leading amenity horticulture body had offered a voluntary bore registration scheme, allowing registered properties to run their sprinklers three times a week.

She said the industry had received comments that the plan was too difficult.

Wetlands must be protected

Michael Hammond of the Department for Water and Environment Regulation said the plan was key to protecting Perth’s groundwater.

“Our groundwater-dependent ecosystems are among the most biologically diverse and ecologically important parts of our landscape and they also support most of our wildlife,” he said.

Water, reeds and trees at Herdsman Lake with the Perth skyline in the background.
Mr Hammond believes the government’s plan will secure the future of Perth’s remaining wetlands.(ABC News: Glyn Jones)

Mr Hammond said Perth had lost around 80 per cent of its wetlands over the past 200 years due to development.

“These remaining wetlands that we have are really worth protecting, and that’s a big part of this plan.”

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