Monday, October 18, 2004

Water conservation 'sacrificed for profits'

The New South Wales Government has been accused of siphoning so much profit from Sydney Water that the utility cannot afford to explore options to drastically reduce the city's water consumption.

It comes a day after Premier Bob Carr announced that the State Government would spend $4 million exploring desalination as an option to boost Sydney's dwindling water supply.

It is an option Carr had earlier dismissed because the energy-intensive process would lift greenhouse gas emissions.

But desalination would guarantee that Sydney Water still provides the city's water needs.

A former managing director of Sydney Water, Bob Wilson, has said that the utility is too focused on maximising profits to seriously explore water saving and recycling options.

"They are, all the time, trying to maximise this year's profit and that means that even when they're supposed to be doing demand management, that doesn't always succeed because they'll drop their profits if they're successful," Mr Wilson said.

"If they teach people to use less water and they encourage people to use water tanks and for industry to recycle water, they make less profits."

Graham Dooley, from water management company United Utilities has said he agrees with that assessment.

"About 30 per cent of the total cash that is generated by the better-performing water utilities ends up in Treasury," Mr Dooley said.

By Bone Dry 18 October 04