Dubbo Water Crisis: Deputy mayor Stephen Lawrence supports smart water meter

WATER CRISIS: Deputy mayor Stephen Lawrence said a smart meter could be used to give people more freedom during water restrictions. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE
WATER CRISIS: Deputy mayor Stephen Lawrence said a smart meter could be used to give people more freedom during water restrictions. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

Dubbo Regional Council is looking into 'smart meters' which would allow residents to track their water usage on their phone.

The smart water meters would be linked to a phone app which would show residents their water usage in real time. Rather than have a list of what is and isn't permitted, residents would be free to use their water as desired, as long as they stayed within the daily limit per person.

Deputy mayor Stephen Lawrence said he had been speaking to a local resident about successful community change who said it was "pretty 1940s" to have a uniform edict that applied to everyone in the community, regardless of their lifestyle or interests.

"I think if we can move to a system like that it empowers people but it also appeals to people's sense of fairness and desire to do the activities they want. And I think those things can be the ingredient of successful change," Cr Lawrence said.

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Having updates through a phone would also make it easier for people to understand their usage.

"Speaking personally, I haven't had a good awareness about water usage. The old water meter is something you might only go and have a look at if you have a problem with the water bill. You don't regularly look at it or even understand it," Cr Lawrence said.

Under level four restrictions, the daily target per person is 280 litres per person.

Council estimates a five minute shower uses 100 litres of water, while a front load wash cycle is 70 litres. Flushing the toilet four times uses about 12 litres of water.

Image: Dubbo Regional Council

Image: Dubbo Regional Council

While the council doesn't currently have the technology to put the smart water meter system into place, the deputy mayor said it was something he had spoken to chief executive officer Michael McMahon and mayor Ben Shields about.

"I know people who absolutely treasure their lawn and their gardens and might live on their own and might have very short showers and might never need to irrigate new turf and might not have evaporative cooling because they have fans... and these things can be balanced," Cr Lawrence said.

"There is an inherent arbitrariness and unfairness about uniform water restrictions. To the extent that technology allows us, I think we should be looking forward to a new flexible model. At the moment it's not quite within our grasp but I think it's something we should look at."

Cr Lawrence said those who had proven to meet the current water restrictions could be used as a trial for the less controlling method of water cutbacks.

The week of Friday, October 25 the daily water consumption in Dubbo was only under 280 litres on one of the seven days. The rest of the daily water consumption rates were above 350L per person.

The worst was on Thursday - possibly in preparation for level four restrictions starting - when council recorded the water consumption in Dubbo was 467L per person.

In Wellington the daily water use for the week was slightly lower than Dubbo. Two days were under 280L.

Overall, the councillor said the community had been supportive of the water restrictions.

"When you see statistics reflecting the worst drought in recorded history, record low inflows, state government research reflecting that by 2030 there'll be 30 per cent less potable water in our region, it is just untenable that we would stick to a status quo approach. I think we needed to act as we did," Cr Lawrence said.