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Water and Energy 

The Rainwater Harvesting Association was delighted to be back in Adelaide hosting an industry breakfast attended by the South Australian Minister for Water, Professor Peter Coombes and Dr Huw Lloyd.

The Minister spoke about the ongoing commitment in South Australia to rainwater harvesting and integrated water cycle management. 

Professor Coombes provided a unique and fascinating insight into the water use technologies at the individual house level. The strength of Peters work has been to build his understanding and data from the lot level to neighbourhood, regional, state and national analysis. Peter has 20 years of meticulous data on water and energy use. 

Dr Huw Lloyd spoke about the Grundfos commitment to sustainable energy use and the Grundfos process for optimising pump energy outcomes. Presentation

New Inclusive Economy - Driving government regulatory change in rainwater

The Hon. Peter Walsh, Victorian Shadow Minister for Water introduced the breakfast. Shadow Minister Walsh has a wealth of experience in water and integrated water management and spoke of the need to establish the rainwater harvesting brand and consistent key messages across the industry. 


The New Residential Rainwater Harvesting Design Specification, a practical guide for homeowners designed to inform government regulation, government policy and developer covenants. - Mike Thompson, Managing Director, Claytech and Jackie Hammond, Chief Executive Rainharvesting Group. This is a joint Urban Water Cycle Solutions and RHAA project.

Design Specification Presentation 


An Alternate Water Plan for Victoria – Using different water models to drive better outcomes for communities and water utilities. Regulating rainwater harvesting and other decentralised water solutions Stuart Heldon, Business Unit Director, Kingspan Environmental Australia and Professor PJ Coombes, Urban Water Cycle Solutions

Kingspan Presentation

Urban Water Cycle Solutions Presentation

The new economy of rainwater harvesting, stormwater management vs traditional water management

Water Sensitive SA and the Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia held a thought-provoking seminar in the Adelaide Town hall on 15 December with a keynote address by Professor PJ Coombes. The discussion brought together the elements of economics, rainwater harvesting and stormwater management and potentially leading edge Australian integrated water policy. See the presentations here

Integrated Water Management in 21st Century Business

The largest master planned community housing project in Australia is starting to roll out in South East Queensland and every building has rainwater harvesting. The sell out crowd hung onto every word as Mark Stephens from the Stockland Aura development talked about the Stockland philosophy and the key role of integrated water management in this sensitive landscape at the latest RHAA Breakfast in Brisbane.

For a summary of the presentations visit the Ripple Effect blog

Copies of the presentations are available here:

Mark Stephens - Aura

Ben O'Callaghan - Currumbin Eco Village

Sally Boer - E2Design

Rainwater Harvesting 2016, Independence and Resilience

21 June Association of Rotational Moulders Conference, Gold Coast

The RHAA presented to the Association of Rotational Moulders on the surprising significance of rainwater harvesting as a major and affordable source of residential water but also the synergistic benefits of rainwater harvesting at a regional scale in energy use, catchment yield and stormwater management. The presentation concludes with the the launch of a joint RHAA/ARMA project on Independent Water, which is the rainwater providing 69% of all household use outside capital cities and is the only source of water for over 2 million Australians.

The Future of Australian Housing Design

20 April 2016, The Heritage Room, Moore Park Golf Club, Centennial Park

The Rainwater Harvesting Association held a breakfast to talk about Housing Design on 20 April in Sydney. Australia needs to build 4 million new houses in Australia by 2036, a 50% increase from 2011. What do we want and what do we need from these houses? Almost every article we read about sustainable houses seems to include rainwater harvesting, solar panels, passive design features. These features clearly work so why do so many of  us have houses without them? What should we do to build great houses and reduce our costs, enjoy our houses more, pay less taxes, and raise healthy families?

To help us talk about this we had some very talented guest speakers

Josh Byrne, Josh Byrne & Associates

Josh Byrne Powerpoint Presentation

High performance housing – insights from the Josh’s House and WGV Precinct projects.

Josh Byrne laid out the blueprint for Josh’s house. In summary

- Use intelligent design, respect the place you are in, align your house to sun and seasons and use local resources such as superficial aquifers

- Use local Water. Start with rainwater and water efficient appliances, it is more efficient to fall back on mains water in the dry season than to plan an enormous tank. Josh’s House uses Perth rainfall for nine months of the year and mains water in late summer when the tank runs dry. Use greywater in summer when it will be used by the garden and bore water from the aquifer for the garden, replenished by infiltration over winter from the garden.  Josh’s house uses 92% less mains water than the Perth average. 

- Use local Energy, Solar panels and battery and energy efficient appliances. Josh’s house only has a 3Kw system and even that generates more power than the house uses over the year, the battery is for nights and cloudy days. This house does not use mechanical heating or cooling. This is what a ten star Nathers rating looks like.

- Living and garden spaces, these are beautiful, green, shady and productive. All surfaces except the roof are permeable, recharging the aquifer, the garden provides fruit, vegetables and eggs. 



Caroline Pidcock, Pidcock Architecture and Sustainability

Caroline Pidcock Powerpoint Presentation

Buildings that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture - the Living Building Challenge.

Caroline Pidcock took architectural sustainability to a good place. Imagine if our houses weren’t just efficient but reflected the values we need to make the world a better place? Can we use houses to establish beauty, inspiration, respect for place, equity and justice?  The Living Building Challenge does that and I want to know a lot more about it.

The Living Building Challenge is based on the metaphor of a flower which is rooted in place and yet harvests all its energy and water, is adapted to climate, is pollution free, is comprised of integrated systems and is beautiful.  The seven performance areas are Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. I have two examples to give you a flavour of the Challenge, one philosophical and one practical. In the Health & Happiness area, the biophilia criteria requires the design to include elements that nurture the innate human attraction to natural systems and processes. In the Materials Performance area the challenge provides a ‘Red List’ of toxic or harmful materials you don’t want to live with. 



Scott Wilson, NSW Department of Planning

Scott Wilson Powerpoint Presentation

Where to with BASIX? Maintaining water saving targets and blue sky opportunities for stormwater and green infrastructure.

Finally Scott updated us on the BASIX system, the most successful sustainability initiative in the country, an ecologically sustainable online assessment tool that integrates water management, energy management and the land use planning and development process. Scot talked about the strengths of water utilities and small scale operators and proposed that access to cheap, high level computing power would be a major factor in helping people to understand, monitor and optimise housing performance in future. 

Why is this important? Why don’t we just let people design and build their own houses? The issue is the billions of dollar our government spends annually on water, energy and stormwater. We as a community could be richer, happier and healthier through strategic regulation. 





Sustainable Buildings Breakfast, 

28 August 2015, Studio 2, Zinc at Federation Square, Melbourne

A landmark event was enjoyed by nearly 60 people on Friday morning. The RHAA was pleased to be supported by Stormwater Australia in holding the breakfast.
Important independent economic research by Dr Peter Coombes in SEQ and Melbourne showed alternative approaches to water, including water efficient appliances, better use of stormwater and rainwater harvesting have a major impact on operational costs for water utilities. The importance of long term operational costs may have been overlooked by both water utilities and the regulators in economic forecasting. 
Andrew Allan, Stormwater Australia National President, did a beautifully presented presentation on the multiple benefits of rainwater harvesting and stormwater management and how regulators and utilities are assessing these benefits. 
Russell Beatty, Principal Engineer and Economist Jacobs Australia spoke about the success of the NSW BASIX program in delivering one of the strongest sustainability planning measures in the country for 10 years and some great modelling on the benefits of combined water supply and rainwater harvesting systems, building on the seminal work done in this area by Dr Peter Coombes.
This was an important event for the national sustainable buildings campaign and established critical principles and research to move forward.
Presentations can be downloaded from here





Rainwater Harvesting in Brisbane - Sustainable Housing

11 June 2015 at Botanical, Mt Coot-tha

50 people attended the event representing rainwater tanks, pumps and government to hear presentations from Dr Peter Coombes, Kim Markwell and Michael Smit from the RHAA. 
A successful event was held in Brisbane on a theme of sustainable housing with an excellent turnout. The Association believes setting water and energy targets for all new buildings in Australia has synergistic benefits for governments and homeowners and experience has shown that where targets are set rainwater harvesting is a very effective tool for meeting those targets. 
Dr Peter Coombes was the keynote speaker and he identified the benefits of lot level solutions in water supply, water security and stormwater peak flow management. The cumulative operational savings are measured in billions by 2056. Additionally setting energy and water targets for buildings brings together water management, energy management and land use planning management into a whole of government approach which is normally extremely difficult to achieve. 

Image courtesy of Kim Markwell, courtesy of Brisbane City Council Norman Creek 2026 Vision and Concept Plan

Kim Markwell spoke on Water Sensitive Design including Water Smart City policy, Living Waterways, the requirements for Water Sensitive Design including bioretention systems and constructed wetlands and then local SEQ examples including the Currumbin EcoVillage which is an off grid residential subdivision. Again rainwater harvesting is an important element of Water Sensitive Design.  The removal of water saving targets in Queensland has resulted in higher developer costs for stormwater treatment as rainwater harvesting was previously reducing stormwater volumes. 

Michael Smit presented material on the BASIX program from the NSW Department of Planning. This is a well established and respected statewide system of applying energy and water targets to all new houses and renovations in the whole of NSW that has achieved a target of 40% reduction in water use from 2004 levels and is benefit cost positive for the NSW community. Savings to NSW residents are estimated at up to $1.2 billion from 120,000 dwellings up to 2050. RHAA believes the principles behind BASIX are applicable across Australia.
The event was followed by a committee meeting attended by industry representatives where we discussed
  • Maintenance guidelines
  • HB 230 and industry standards
  • Social media - engaging rainwater tank owners and
  • The sustainable housing targets campaign progress

The following presentations are available for download

Peter Coombes, Urban Water Cycle Solutions Impact of local water and energy policies on government markets
Kim Markwell, E2DesignLab Water Sensitive Design
Michael Smit, RHAA The NSW BASIX program



Rainwater Harvesting in Sydney - Rainwater tank health and maintenance

Notes from the Event

The RHAA is committed to using the term ‘rainwater harvesting systems’ when talking about rainwater tanks. This term includes the house, the occupants and the wider environment including stormwater. The best value is obtained from rainwater harvesting when it is assessed and understood as a whole system.

The CSIRO is planning to publish a report demonstrating a need for more maintenance information and linking bird and possum droppings with pathogens in rainwater tanks. BASIX NSW also identified a need for more information about managing rainwater harvesting systems. Associate Professor Peter Coombes presented previous research indicating the biology within the rainwater tank and other factors means health outcomes are no worse than for potable water. By following the regulated standards and health department guidelines that include first flush devices, 2.3 million Australians are able to drink rainwater every day. If you are concerned about the quality of water from your tank it is quite simple to change your rainwater harvesting system to address issues.

With the growing popularity of rainwater tanks there is good research available from both the NSW BASIX program and the CSIRO that more information is needed about managing and maintaining rainwater harvesting systems. The RHAA is interested in working with industry stakeholders to help develop a series of simple guidelines on managing and maintaining rainwater harvesting systems.

Rainwater Harvesting Melbourne Event - Securing Melbourne's Water Future

Presentations from Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia Breakfast at Zinc, Melbourne July 2013:

Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show

The Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia joined with Landscaping Victoria at site A67 at the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show (MIFGS). This year, the Landscaping Victoria stand at MIFGS was designed by Chelsea Award Best in Show 2013 winning designer Phillip Johnson Landscapes. 

The design was based on showing an urban environment and how it can be improved. Most of our current urban environments are concrete and many multi storeys, but they can still be transformed to green space to provide insulation from heat. The design associated the following ideas with healthy gardens:

  • Vertical gardens
  • Waterways and natural pools -- chemical free
  • Native gardens (waterwise) native grass
  • Rain gardens/water tanks
  • The effective use of irrigation in gardens
  • Materials and choices
  • Licensed landscapers
  • Recycled timber

Information will be made available for the public from savewater!®, Beyond Blue and Deakin University about garden and water health benefits and the calming effects of gardening for the mind and body.

Take a look at savewater!®'s latest blog post about the site.

We took a video at the Landscaping Victoria site with RHAA Chairman, Colin Nash which you can see below.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 November 2017 15:48
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