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033/07                                                                                                                          31 January 2006




Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said the ACT Government would move quickly to begin comprehensive community consultation on the use of recycled water, following today’s in-principle proposal by Actew to urgently investigate the recycling of waste water to boost Canberra’s potable water supply.


Signalling his broad personal support for the use of recycled water, Mr Stanhope said he looked forward to seeing Actew’s detailed investigation of the feasibility of purifying water from the Lower Molonglo plant to bring it up to drinking standard. He stressed that Cabinet would need to make a final decision, based on Actew’s detailed final advice, and said he believed it was crucial that the community was kept fully informed and was given the opportunity to debate such a significant reform to the potable water supply. Details of the community consultation process would be announced shortly.


Mr Stanhope also welcomed the in-principle commitment by the Actew board to urgently explore the building of an enlarged Cotter Dam to increase the capacity of that reservoir to cope with the increased volumes of water that would result from recycling, and he said he believed both the dam proposal and the recycling scheme were precisely the kinds of project that could be eligible for Commonwealth funding under the Australian Water Fund.


“Recent developments, not least of which has been the Federal Government’s decision not to complete the transfer of the Googong Dam to the ACT Government, have left the ACT with no option but to explore bringing forward plans and proposals for securing the ACT’s water supply, proposals that might otherwise not have been necessary for another decade or so,” Mr Stanhope said today.


“Fortunately, because of the proactive approach that has been taken in recent years by Actew and the Government, much of the groundwork and thinking on future water options has already been done. This work has included quite detailed exploration of the potential for building a recycling plant that would allow the ACT to desalinate and bring up to drinking quality a proportion of the water that is now released into the river at the Lower Molonglo plant.


“Thanks to this work and foresight, the ACT is now in a position to move swiftly and confidently to consider real and concrete proposals by Actew to secure the ACT’s water supply in the face of the greater uncertainty created by the Commonwealth’s behaviour over Googong, and the prolonged drought.”


Mr Stanhope said the work, if it proceeded, would equip Canberra to better withstand even worst-case climate scenarios.


“The ACT Government, through Actew, has invested heavily in water infrastructure over the past five years, and the fact that we are in a position to bring forward proposals such as those announced today by the Actew board is further evidence of our prudent and proactive approach to securing the water supply,” Mr Stanhope said. “I look forward to hearing what Canberrans think about including recycled water in our potable supply.”


Media Contact:   Penelope Layland    6205 9777         Mobile 0438 289 714


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