Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Australia's Most Powerful Street Secures Its Own Emergency Water Supply

Macquarie Street in Sydney's CBD is undoubtedly the most power-concentrated street in Australia, filled with the offices of top lawyers, accountants, business leaders, the prime minister and the NSW State government.

Soon it will have its own independent, secure recycled water supply. If Sydney ever suffers severe water shortages, you now know where to take your buckets :

Recycled water will be stored under one of Sydney's main streets in a scheme aimed at saving New South Wales Parliament almost 18 million litres a year, or about half its water consumption.

The water recycling project, which begins today, will use large rainwater tanks built on top of Parliament House, the State Library and Sydney Hospital that can each hold 60,000 litres.

Water Utilities Minister Nathan Rees says the water collected will flow into an "artificial lake" being created under Macquarie Street.

"What we're calling the St James Lake is an old disused railway tunnel that we will now be filling with water from the roofs of these buildings, keeping it in storage and then using it for gardens and toilets and so on," he said.

The tunnel, just north of the State Library, already holds 5 million litres of stormwater after collecting run-off for decades.

The Government wants to pump a lot more stormwater into it. The reservoir would then be used as the main supply of recycled water for all of the public buildings along Macquarie Street.

Mr Rees says the water in the disused tunnel is surprisingly clean.

"Despite the debris, the water is crystal clear after it's come through the sandstone," he said. "You just don't expect to find this under the centre of Sydney."

No, you don't expect to find out that the State government is stockpiling recycled rainwater and stormwater, particularly when they have been so reluctant to embrace city wide stormwater harvesting, and instead chose to blow almost $2 billion on a desalination plant that will eventually be owned by foreign interests.

Sydneysiders will be paying some of the highest prices for water in the world within the decade, except for those residing in Macquarie Street of course. They will have their own free, "crystal clear" water supply. Enough fresh water, in fact, to last them all a good year if hardcore water shortages become a reality.

It's called looking after your own.