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Letters and Responses

Letter from Jenny Moxham about Eating Animals and its Affect on the Water Supply - 20 Mar 2007

I was delighted to see this professors letter and then mine too in today's main daily paper.'..The Age. Jenny March 20, 2007

PRODUCTIVITY Commissioner Neil Byron is quoted as saying that domestic water savings in Melbourne might make people feel good about water saving but made no impact on Australia's water crisis ("Home savings virtually negligible: expert", The Age, 19/3) .

Well, he's right and at the same time wrong. The point missed here is that Melbourne draws its water supply from its own catchment-based storage and distribution system. The savings that are now being made by domestic water practices in Melbourne are making a difference within that supply system and there is enormous potential to do more.

Some 54 per cent of the water used in residential Melbourne is flushed down the toilet or hosed on to gardens. This translates to about one-third of all the water supplied to Melbourne from its catchment dams. While this amount might be insignificant in the national water accounting, it is a substantial amount of the water available to Melbourne.

Domestic rainwater storage and domestic recycling of grey water from the bathroom has the potential to reduce by up to one-third water taken from our water supply catchments. The saved water could then be used to put more environmental flow into the rivers where the dams are located, particularly the Thomson and the Yarra.

However, if the people of Melbourne wanted to make a big contribution to the national water budget rather than just their own catchment system, they could do this by changing their diet.

Associate Professor Ian Rutherfurd, of the school of social and environmental enquiry at the University of Melbourne, made this point recently in a seminar delivered at the university. He pointed out that the water used directly in Melbourne households is only one-ninth of the total. Most of the water we use at home is virtual water, embodied in the food we eat.

If Melbourne residents changed their diets towards eating more vegetables and away from meat and dairy products, this really would have an impact on water at the national scale. Given the importance of the Murray-Darling Basin in supplying food to Melbourne, that would lead to significant savings of water there.

Associate Professor Brian Finlayson, school of social and environmental enquiry, University of Melbourne

Don't mention the

WELL, here it is, loud and clear from Productivity Commissioner Neil Byron: "Irrigators, such as dairy or cotton farms, would use in a couple of days the water the entire city of Melbourne could save in a year." So why isn't the Government calling on Australians to help save water by limiting their intake of dairy products? And meat and wool should be included too, since meat uses 50,000-100,000 litres of water per kilogram and wool, a mind-boggling 170,000 litres of water per kilogram? Could it be that Government members have a personal stake in these industries?

Jenny Moxham, Monbulk

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