Water and sustainability law

Water and ACT planning law

In order to improve the water efficiency of residential, commercial and industrial developments in the ACT, a Design Code attached to the TP has introduced certain requirements.

Code 11.10 of the TP, which commenced on 31 March 2008, deals with waterways. The Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) General Code sets out requirements for water sensitive design and planning which apply to both land use planning and to development approval. The code integrates urban water cycle management considerations into planning law. It aims to minimise water use and to reduce stormwater runoff, by minimising disruption to natural drainage pathways and reducing impervious areas.

The WSUD code provides mandatory targets for reduction in mains water consumption and stormwater quality and quantity management. From March 2008, all new residential, commercial and industrial developments have been required to demonstrate how a 40% water efficiency target will be achieved. This target has been set to reduce mains water consumption by 40% from pre-2003 levels. This target must be achieved in all new developments and redevelopments, whether those developments are single residential, multi-unit residential, new residential suburbs and estates, re-development or in-fill development within the existing built environment, and commercial, industrial or institutional developments. Extensions and alterations that increase the floor area by more than 50% are also required to comply.

According to ACTPLA, the provision of a BASIX certificate (using Queanbeyan location data) for single and multi-unit residential developments in the ACT is acceptable evidence that the WSUD requirement for mains water use reduction will be achieved. The BASIX assessment requires information about the proposed development, such as site location, dwelling size, floor area, landscaped area and services. The proposal is scored according to its potential to consume less mains water than an average existing home.

Catchment protection

Impacts of development on water supply catchments are addressed via the TP and the operation of the Planning Act. Under the TP, this is the Water Use and Catchment General Code (Code 11.8). Under the Planning Act, this is Part 4.3, which requires an EIS for a proposal that is likely to have a significant adverse environment impact on a domestic water supply catchment or a water use purpose mentioned in the TP (see Chapter 8 in this Handbook for more information on water catchment management in the ACT).

Water tanks

Water tanks are exempt from requirements for development approval if the tank is of less than 20,000 litre capacity, is no more than 2.45 metres above natural ground level; and no part of the tank is located between a front boundary and a building line for the block. Other restrictions apply where part of the tank is within 1.5 metres of a side boundary or rear boundary. All others are required to go through the development application process (see Chapter 3 in this Handbook for more information on DAs and Chapter 8 for more information on rainwater tanks in the ACT).

Water labelling

The Water Efficiency and Labelling Standards (WELS) Scheme is a cooperative scheme between the Commonwealth and the states and territories to provide for national water efficiency labelling and standards. This legislation, the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 was enacted both federally and in the ACT. The scheme applies to showers, taps, flow controllers, toilets, urinals, and clothes washing machines and dishwashers. The WELS website contains comprehensive information about the operation of the scheme and penalties that apply for breaches (see Contacts list at the back of this book). A second independent expert review of the WELS scheme was completed in June 2015 and its results will be taken into account in future policy and legislative steps to be taken by the Federal government.

The WELS Scheme has replaced the voluntary National Water Conservation Rating and Labelling Scheme (the ‘AAAAA’ Scheme) (see Chapter 8 in this Handbook for more information on ACT water law).

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