Victoria currently has level 2 water restrictions as explained here. That means that households in Melbourne are: only permitted to hand water their gardens on two days per week; are not permitted to wash their cars with a garden hose in their driveway; and are banned from watering lawns with drinking water. You might think that is because water needs to be rationed to avoid running out of it. But in fact, Melbourne’s large dams are over 60% full, the long term forecast is for average or above average rainfall, a pipeline has been built from the Goulburn River to Melbourne and a 200 GL per year desalination plant will be completed later this year, which could be itself supply one third of Melbourne’s (unrestricted) water usage.
We can say for sure that draconian water restrictions are not needed to prevent Melbourne running out of water. Well, maybe its because water must be preserved lest desalinated water is used in the future, and desalinated water is bad for the environment. In the full scheme of sins against the environment desalinated water from the new Wonthaggi plant is not first order. The footprint of the plant is about the same as a medium size shopping centre. The plant will emit 240 GL of hyper-saline (twice the salt) water into the ocean each year. The idea that super saline emissions of that scale into the open ocean does substantial damage to the environment is just wilfully stupid. The extra CO2 emissions will be offset by wind power and will come under the ambit of the new carbon tax. In any case, we might note that driving a car to an authorised car wash more than 2 kms away will use cause more emissions that washing the car with desalinated water from a hose at home.
So why does Victoria still have such draconian water restrictions? — because using water is a sin. It is immoral. It doesn’t matter that we won’t run out of water, or that the damage to the environment is an order of magnitude less than other unregulated activities (like flying to overseas holidays), it is just immoral in its own right. Why is using water immoral, profligate and anti-social and therefore in need of close government prescription? It just is. It can’t be explained. It is a natural law — part of the immutable dichotomy of good and evil since the creation of the universe. It is just immoral to consume water that isn’t absolutely necessary to sustain life, and therefore it should be banned.
Western Australia has a highly immoral water policy. Dam levels are at only 25% of capacity (filling up with heavy winter rain), but the water restrictions are modest — sprinklers can only be turned on two days per week in summer. Otherwise there are no restrictions on washing cars or watering lawns — how shocking. WA has a second desalination plant coming on line later this year, which is why the government of that dissolute state is not very concerned about running out of water.