Sydney Dam Storage Levels
Mr MORRIS IEMMA (Lakemba—Premier, and Minister for Citizenship) [2.15 p.m.]: Over the past two weeks Sydney and its surrounds have received some of the rain we have all been hoping for. The recent falls have dumped up to 320 millimetres into Sydney's drinking water catchments. I am advised by the Sydney Catchment Authority that this equates to a boost for the dams of 336 billion litres. While it is very welcome, we still need more. Figures released this morning show the percentage of New South Wales affected by drought has fallen from 83 per cent to 80 per cent, showing that the drought is a long way from over. The Sydney Catchment Authority also advises me that over the past two weeks the total dam storage has increased significantly. Two weeks ago the total storage capacity was at 36.9 per cent, and the last two weeks of rain has resulted in it increasing by more than 33 per cent, or by around 13 percentage points. That means an increase over the past 14 days to approximately 49.6 per cent, as at first thing this morning.
The SPEAKER: Order! Members on the Opposition benches will remain silent.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: I am advised that right now our dam levels are passing the 50 per cent mark. The last time our total water storage capacity was above 50 per cent was in May 2004. The Sydney Catchment Authority advises the following storage levels for the state's dams: Cataract Dam is now at 76.5 per cent; Cordeaux Dam is at 61.3 per cent, and Avon Dam is at 65.7 per cent. Nepean, Tallowa, Fitzroy Falls and Blue Mountains dams are at 100 per cent of capacity. Prospect Dam is at 81 per cent, Woronora is at 50 per cent, and Wingecarribee is at 86 per cent of capacity. Collectively these dams represent 20 per cent of Sydney's overall drinking water storage capacity. Warragamba Dam makes up the other 80 per cent. I can advise the House that Warragamba Dam is now at 43.1 per cent of capacity.
While this rain is welcome, two weeks of rain does not change our long-term plans to secure Sydney's water supply. That means we are 100 per cent committed to building the desalination plant and our recycled water grids as just part of our plans to ensure Sydney never runs out of drinking water. But meeting Sydney's water needs depends on a continuing partnership between the Government, industry, farmers and the community to use water wisely. I take this opportunity to thank the people of New South Wales for a tremendous combined effort in conserving water. Since October 2003 when mandatory restrictions were introduced Sydneysiders have saved almost 300 billion litres of water. That is a very, very impressive achievement.
Through the mixture of projects that make up the Metropolitan Water Plan we can now be sure that we have sufficient water to meet our needs through until at least 2015, we are in a strong position to accommodate population growth beyond 2015 and, for the first time ever, Sydney is strongly positioned to withstand the current drought, and droughts we may encounter in the future. We are working hard with the community and industry to ensure we continue to recycle water and improve our preparedness for the next drought. Over the next 25 to 30 years the use of recycled water in Sydney will reach about 100 billion litres a year, which represents around one-fifth of Sydney's water needs in recycling alone. The Sydney Catchment Authority continues to work on projects to access groundwater to be used as a supplement to Sydney's water supply.
I am advised that reaching 50 per cent storage capacity is the point at which the catchment authority may recommence releasing environmental flows into the Hawkesbury-Nepean. Officers from the departments of Environment and Climate Change, and Water and Energy will review this issue to determine whether environmental flows can be resumed. While we continue to monitor the weather patterns and ongoing inflows into dams, the advice today from water experts is that we should not change our current water restrictions at this time. Obviously we will continue to review the situation, based on the conditions and based on consumption levels.
Notwithstanding population and economic growth, we are now using less water than we did three years ago. That is not something we want to dismiss on the basis of our first two weeks of decent rain in years, because recent history tells us we should take a conservative approach when it comes to water management. That is how we survived without having to use level 5 restrictions, unlike other cities. We will not lift water restrictions until we have guaranteed levels of supply and storage. In short, we will not gamble with the city's future water needs or, indeed, the State's future water needs—unlike the Opposition.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER (Terrigal) [2.23 p.m.]: In the spirit of bipartisanship I join the Premier in congratulating the people of Sydney on the magnificent conservation effort they have undertaken individually in their tens of thousands to save 300 billion litres of water since October 2005. It is a magnificent effort and the people of Sydney deserve congratulations. I then move on to the more significant point of what the Premier had to say. This is the man who solemnly promised the people of New South Wales that the desalination plant would not go ahead unless the water levels at Warragamba Dam fell below 30 per cent. That was his commitment.
When the Minister for Water Utilities was interviewed today and he was asked why the Government made that commitment when it did not know what the water levels would be, he said he did not know. But we had a commitment from no less a person than the Premier of New South Wales that there would be no desalination plant unless those levels fell below 30 per cent and what happens? The levels are now at 43 per cent and the desalination plant is going ahead—so much for the integrity of the Premier. This is a tipping point in the assessment of this Government in its approach to water conservation, but more in its approach to the people of New South Wales. The Government is telling the people of Sydney to conserve water. But it will not play its part, and it will do whatever suits it politically at any given moment.
The people should not rely on the integrity of any promise this Government gives them because it promised there would be no desalination plant unless water levels fell below 30 per cent, but when the water levels were 38 per cent that promise was repudiated. As the water levels continue to rise to 43 per cent the Premier is prepared to stand up here and still say the desalination plant will go ahead. The Sydney Morning Herald in its editorial today said there is a time to call "stop" and it asked the Premier to stop, because although this Government is supposedly committed to climate change control to preserve our future, it is more committed to increasing CO 2 emissions from all the electricity that will be required to run a desalination plant.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Bathurst will come to order.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: The Government is committed to disturbing the ocean off the coast by increasing the saline content six-fold as large quantities of saline are dumped from the Kurnell plant once it becomes operational.
The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister for Police will come to order.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: So much for marine life; so much for conservation; so much for the migratory pattern of whales. As the whales go up and down the coast, they are going to be severely disturbed by the Premier. The Premier can sit over there and propose for the next four years that he will protect the environment in this State but people will remember what he did to Kurnell. He can talk about climate change but people will remember what he did to Kurnell. He can talk about the integrity of his Government and its promises and people will remind him what he did to Kurnell.
The member for Miranda was saved by 600 Greens preferences—
The SPEAKER: Order! I call the Minister for Police to order.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: —and the member for Miranda made the magnificent comment about how ungrateful the electorate was because it took the member up to 600 votes to retain his seat.
The SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: That is nothing compared to what the Premier said today.
The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Miranda to order.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: The Premier said all promises are off. He promised there would be no desalination plant unless water levels were under 30 per cent, but he is going to break that promise. When the Premier stands here and proudly acknowledges that he has broken a promise—like his Minister for Roads in another place—it says everything about his and his Government's integrity over the next four years. It also says everything about the Minister for Water Utilities, who has a big story to tell over the next four years about what he was doing in the office of the then Minister he served prior to the 2007 State election. But we will come to that at another stage. It says everything about the Minister's performance on radio 2GB this morning when he was unable to justify why the decision had been made on the desalination plant. There are many questions to be asked about this Government and many questions that are yet unanswered, but they will be answered over the next four years.