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Carbon tax a spur for urban renewal

By Patrick Troy - posted Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Carbon Tax offers a new opportunity to re-organise two most important aspect of our system of cities

The new compact between Labor , the Greens and the independents offers a new opportunity for the Commonwealth government to re-organise two of the most important aspects of our system of cities.

The two are:

  1. urban water services, and
  2. intercity and intra-city transport systems.

Water services

It is not widely understood that moving water around our cities is extremely energy expensive.

Water authorities are among the highest energy users as they pump water around to supply the precious resource to every dwelling and business.

They also pump prodigious volumes of the water we discharge as ‘waste’ or sewage.

For some time now we have been at the practical limit of nature to provide water for the variety of uses we put it to. We drink only about 1 percent of household water consumption and we need a further 6-7 percent of potable quality water for food preparation, cooking and cleaning of utensils, cutlery and crockery. Say a total of 10percent of the water we use needs to be of potable quality.

We use about a quarter of such high quality water for showering and personal hygiene, slightly less to flush the present kinds of toilets and a further 15percent in the laundry. The remainder goes on a variety of activities ranging from gardening to car washing for none of which is it essential to use potable water.


The highly centralized way we have organized both the collection and delivery of water is extremely energy expensive as is the way we collect and process the sewage flows before discharging it to the oceans.

We continue to ignore the water that falls as rain and is of excellent quality but by seeing it as a storm water ‘problem’ we frequently have to pump it to discharge it, again to the rivers, bays and harbours on which our cities are built.

Rather than explore ways in which we might reshape our demand for potable water we have resorted to the development of ‘manufactured water’ in the form of desalination plants or sewage recycling plants. Both of which are extremely energy intensive and lead to highly expensive water.

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About the Author

Professor Patrick Troy AO is Emeritus Professor and Visiting Fellow at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Adjunct Professor in the Uban Research Program at Griffith University and Visiting Professor in the City Futures Research Centre, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales.

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All articles by Patrick Troy

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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