Warrnambool stormwater capture system

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The Warrnambool stormwater capture system will soon use house roofs to boost dam levels.

A new suburb in Warrnambool will be directly connected to the city's reservoir, turning idle roofs into drinking water catchments.

The first residents to move into the Russell Creek development on Warrnambool's north-eastern fringe won't need to make decisions about capturing rainwater. Their homes will be already fitted with downpipes that carry water from their roofs to a communal underground "trunk".

The trunk pipe will carry the water two kilometres downhill to the city's Brierly Street dam where, after purification, it will add to the city's drinking supplies

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  • an extra 20 million litres was expected to flow into the dams from the initial trial of 142 homes.
  • the bounty will climb to 450 million litres a year under plans to expand the number of participating homes to 3000.
  • Warrnambool residents use 3900 million litres each year.

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Peter Wilson, the man who devised the scheme, grew up on a farm that relied on rainwater.

He said an extra 20 million litres was expected to flow into the dams from the initial trial of 142 homes. That bounty will climb to 450 million litres a year under plans to expand the number of participating homes to 3000.

Warrnambool residents use 3900 million litres each year. The scheme is a major step forward for stormwater capture, which traditionally funnels water into gardens, toilets, creeks or wetlands.

Local water authority Wannon Water believes the scheme is an Australian first. Water Services Association of Australia chief Ross Young yesterday supported that view.

"This would be the first time I'm aware of that the water would go directly from the roofs into the reservoir and bypass the natural drainage lines like creeks and parks," he said.

Development of such a scheme in Warrnambool bucks the notion that necessity is the mother of invention; the city boasts strong rainfall, has one of the state's most secure water supplies and has no water restrictions.

Mr Wilson said the scheme could be copied anywhere that new housing estates were being built, including Melbourne.

"I'm surprised that other water agencies who've got greater pressures on them than us have not picked this up and run with it … it seems such a simple, logical thing to do," he said. Mr Young said such schemes should be considered for new estates, but it might not be realistic to retro-fit entire cities.

He said examples like Warrnambool showed that methods of securing water, other than through desalination, were still viable.

"With desal coming in, it's probably going to stimulate innovation because water will become more expensive," he said. "That means other innovative solutions, which currently seem expensive, might suddenly become more attractive."

Source: Pass (on) the salt and look to the roofs, Peter Ker, The Age, August 7, 2009

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