I walked out of the office and went to step in my car a couple of months ago. I noticed the rear driver tyre was a little flat. I thought I should drop into the service station and put some air into it. The pressure was certainly below what I would expect so I put some more air in it. A couple of days later I noticed the same thing – and I again visited a service station. This went on for several weeks before I found the time to visit a tyre business and have the slow leak repaired.
It seems silly; how much time did I waste visiting service stations for a few minutes at a time – over and over – when the real solution was to have the tyre fixed immediately. Yes, it would have taken longer initially, but I would have saved a significant amount of time in the long run.
This is obviously a hypothetical situation – I wouldn’t be so silly – but there are lots of examples that you see in society every day that are just like this. My belief is that these type of examples come back to the core issue of sustainability. I know ‘sustainability’ is often thrown about as a trendy and hip word to use, without a lot of knowledge or understanding of the true meaning of the word.
Take another simple example. If you have a tap that drips at one drip per second, that can waste about 10 kilolitres in a year. Depending on the season, Dubbo households typically use around 300 kilolitres in a year (this does vary significantly with the weather, as about 35 per cent of water in the average house is used on the garden). Therefore one dripping tap could increase the household water use by over 3 per cent. The cost of one dripping tap is worth $17.40 in water usage for that one house – significantly more than the cost of a replacement washer.
The real issue though is when you start to multiply that one dripping tap out across the City – or the region. How much water is being processed in water treatment plants throughout the nation only to be dripped out a tap and then processed through a sewerage treatment plant? Assume each house in the nation had just one leaking tap, the figure would be around 75 gigalitres! That is a lot of processed water to go to waste each year.
Power is another issue where spending more money initially can have incredible savings in the long run – for the environment and financially. There are a number of renewable methods of generating power now, with solar panels being the most popular. The short term investment in the cost of solar panels – for households, businesses and governments – is paid off many times over in the long term. In our last community needs survey, 63 per cent of residents said that community energy efficiency and renewable energy was of high importance. Further, 66 per cent of residents said that water conservation initiatives were of high importance.
My belief is that the majority of people in Dubbo are quite correct in their feelings on energy efficiency and water conservation. These are the sort of real-world solutions that will help with long-term sustainability of communities across the world. I would rather see some action on the ground rather than a discussion about a range of concepts. This is certainly an area that I feel governments could address better. At times I feel the election cycle of less than three years (federally) means that many projects are undertaken that deliver short-term results at the expense of good long-term solutions to a range of issues – including sustainability.
At Dubbo City Council, we have undertaken a range of initiatives to improve our sustainability. We have fitted all our buildings with energy efficient lighting; installed solar systems at the Western Plains Cultural Centre, the Library, and the Airport to generate energy; and we rely on solar power to heat the children’s pool at the Dubbo Aquatic Leisure Centre. We are using backwash water from the Aquatic Centre and the water treatment plant for the irrigation of parks and open spaces. We are operating a modern plant and vehicle fleet that incorporates technology to reduce emission outputs – including hybrid vehicles – and we are planting trees to offset any CO2 emissions that fleet does produce. We are running education programs on things like biodiversity at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden and we coordinate the annual Dubbo Sustainable City Expo to help educate the community about sustainability and encourage sustainable practices and information sharing among businesses. We also work collaboratively with other local and state government organisations – such as the BOD Alliance, the savewater! Alliance and the Central West Catchment Management Authority – to achieve wider reaching results throughout the region.
That doesn’t mean we are finished just yet. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the sustainability equation for residents and for the City. We want to use practical examples and be leaders in our community.
Tell me how many leaking taps you have at your place at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clr Mathew Dickerson
Mayor of the City of Dubbo