Schools, Drinking Water

27 Nov 2013 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Water and the River Murray regarding rainwater tank use.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The issue of rainwater tank use in schools has been a hot topic this year, as schools have been receiving notification that they may not use their rainwater tanks when mains water is available. Through freedom of information, my office has sought to understand why this change of policy has taken place. The only document we have been able to obtain is from DECS, which has a policy entitled 'Asset policy & capital programs—policy, standards and procedures: use of harvested rainwater at DECS sites', which goes back to 2007 and I understand has not been reviewed in that time.

The policy refers to a number of issues and states, 'Harvested rainwater shall not be used for drinking purposes at sites with a public mains water supply.' It further states that without mains supply, disinfection via ultraviolet light irradiation is required, and all rainwater tanks must have a first flush diverter fitted.

The Liberal opposition is aware that at least the regional schools of Ceduna, Clare, Streaky Bay and Keith have been advised of this policy. Streaky Bay, in particular, installed rainwater tanks to assist in the increasing cost of their water bills. The Keith Area School, we understand, spent approximately $15,000 to $20,000 installing rainwater tanks and piping, to be told now that they are not able to use it. The FOI didn't establish that there was any policy through SA Health or DEWNR. My questions for the minister are:

1. Can he explain why this policy is now being enforced?

2. What advice does DEWNR or SA Water provide, particularly in relation to water conservation methods?

3. Is the government willing to work with schools to find a resolution for this issue?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:32): I thank the honourable member for her most important question about DECD policy as it relates to rainwater tanks in country and regional schools. That is a question, of course, that needs to be referred to the Minister for Education and Child Development in the other place, so I am happy to take that part of her question on notice.

In terms of DEWNR policies and SA Water policies in relation to that, I have no advice in relation to what DEWNR or SA Water may have discussed with DECD. Again, I can ask my department to supply that information for the honourable member, so I will bring back a response in regard to that part.