Urban Heat Island effect

What you need to know about the Urban Heat Island effect? Cities create their own micro climates by affecting the surrounding atmosphere and interacting with climate processes. The result is that urban areas are becoming significantly warmer than the surrounding areas. Especially when there is less green cover and more hard surfaces which absorb, store and radiate heat.

Urban Heat Island Effect graphic © Alexandre Affonso

The impacts of the Urban Heat Island effect include:

  • Increased daytime temperatures
  • Reduced night time cooling
  • Higher air pollution levels

These impacts affect human health by causing:

  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Heat cramps
  • Exhaustion
  • Heat stroke
  • Heat-related mortality

The 2017 Cooling Western Sydney report shows the most effective urban heat mitigation technologies incorporate a combination of urban greening, water-based technologies and cool materials. Increased green spaces with water features and fountains, combined with cool material technologies including cool roofs and pavements are all ways to reduce temperatures across Sydney making a more liveable and climate resilient city.

With the increase in urbanisation across Sydney incorporating theses strategies in urban design will become even more important.

What can you do?

  • Increase shade around your home: planting trees and other vegetation lowers surface and air temperatures by providing shade and cooling through evapotranspiration. Trees and vegetation can also reduce stormwater runoff and protect against erosion. 
  • Install Green Roofs: growing plants, shrubs, grasses and trees on a rooftop reduces temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air and improves stormwater management. Also called “rooftop gardens” or “eco-roofs,” green roofs achieve these benefits by providing shade and removing heat from the air through evapotranspiration.
INFOGRAPHIC: In addition to reducing stormwater runoff, experts say green roofs have psychological benefits. © Urban Water/City of Melbourne
  • Install Cool Roofs: a cool roof is made of materials or coatings that significantly reflect sunlight and heat away from a building. This reduces roof temperatures, increases the comfort and lowers energy demand. 
  • Install Cool Pavements: Using paving materials on sidewalks, parking lots, and streets that remain cooler than conventional pavements by reflecting solar energy and enhancing water evaporation. This cools the pavement surface and surrounding air and can also reduce stormwater runoff and improve night time visibility. 

Find out more:

When it rains it pours

What is the impact of heavy rain after the recent fires and continued drought? The lack of rain and the fires create a situation where water doesn’t soak into the soil resulting in an increase in runoff. This is because the soil has become hydrophobic and repels the water instead. Vast amounts of vegetation has been lost during the fires exposing the ground to erosion. This combined with all the debris, ash and increased runoff create the risk of landslides, flash flooding and contaminated water flowing into our waterways.

BOM forecaster Abrar Shabren said “Flash flooding is generally a concern with thunderstorms and ponding of water on roads. Depending on how much vegetation is left, how much bushfire the ground has gone through, that can also add to the impact of flash flooding as well,” He said bushfire areas were also “vulnerable” to landslides and toppling trees during thunderstorms because fires would have weakened the vegetation.

The Macleay River in northern NSW has already seen the impact of runoff from bushfire affected areas where locals have reported thousands of fish have been killed after ash was washed into the river system.

Locals believe hundreds of thousands of fish may have died Image © ABC

According to Tony Weber from WaterNSW the amount of rainfall is unlikely to replenish dams or break the drought in any regions. Warragamba Dam, which supplies water to more than 5 million people living in Sydney and the lower Blue Mountains, is only at 43.7 per cent capacity. Mr Weber said that “The modelling tells us that given the size of the catchment and the prolonged dry period that’s been experienced, we’ll need rain well in excess of that to really generate any inflows,” .

In the recent fires over 320,000 hectares in the Warragamba Dam catchment has been burnt. “So the volume of ash and debris that’s flowing around the catchment is extensive,” Mr Weber said. “The advice we’ve had from the Bureau of Meteorology is that this rain probably won’t be sufficient to generate that sort of run-off. However Mr Weber continued stating ” the risk of ash contamination for the storage will remain a reality for some six to 12 months to come.”

The NSW State Government has recently installed curtains and booms to trap silt and ash due to the concerns raised about the risk to Sydney’s drinking water. The ABC reported the State Government was installing curtains and booms to prevent silt and ash from contaminating the water at Warragamba Dam.

Booms will be used to trap silt and ash from the bushfires. © ABC

Professor Stuart Khan a water expert from from the University of NSW told the ABC that “Once you have a fire go through a drinking-water catchment, the ash that’s left on the ground and the ground itself becomes more repelling of water,” Professor Khan said the water coming out of the tap would still be clean and drinkable, but the silt and ash would create a challenge for the Prospect Water Filtration Plant.

“The immediate problems really are problems for the water treatment processes,” he said. “Water treatment plants are designed to remove contaminants like that from the water, but when we have very large quantities of sediment they will really struggle.”

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Welcome to 2020

It is great to jump into the the new year with a goal and a plan. I like to think about what I can realistically achieve, what I can do differently to make a better future. 2020 is going to be My Year of Sustainability. I want to step up and do more and show my children that we can all make a difference.

As we begin a new decade it is important to reflect on the year that has pasted. Australia has experienced heatwaves, bushfire, droughts and floods. According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record.

In 2019 my family made 2 big road trips crossing 5 states. I saw first hand the impact of the droughts across regional New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. In July we saw the receding floodwaters in Queensland where the town of Birdsville was recovering after being cut off by floods twice. The devastation of the bushfires on the NSW South Coast was incredible as we drove down the Princes Highway in late December. Even more so because the worst was yet to come. We stayed at Lakes Entrance and drove through East Gippsland as the fire crisis was beginning. I’ve had an overwhelming sense of doom after being engulfed by bushfire smoke for so long and watching these natural disasters.

Receding floodwater Birdsville Qld and the surrounding area July 2019 © Karen Player

Everything I have seen throughout 2019 has motivated me to make 2020 My Year of Sustainability. So where will I start?

What can I do to make a difference?

I am going to start with the things I can control. I’m avoiding single use items and making sure I always have a spare reusable bag with me. Sydney tap water is some of the best in the world, so we should all say no to buying water in plastic bottles. Just refill your own water bottle, save the environment and save money too.

I will spend more time in the garden; build a haven for local wildlife, grow more fresh food and create a space to enjoy and relax. I miss my chickens and will fix up their hutch and get a couple of hens. Chickens are great for fresh eggs, reduce your amount of waste and keep the garden healthy. I’m also keen to get a native bee hive this year.

Native bee house

I will avoid using chemical in the garden to control pests and try some of these ideas:

  • Apply soapy water directly Bugs (sap sucking insects).
  • Place a saucers of beer in the garden to discourage snails or sprinkle sawdust some near the base of plants.
  • Sprinkle half eggshells throughout your veggie garden to deter cabbage moths.
  • Pour boiling water directly onto weeds to kill them.
  • Spray milk directly onto affected leaves to get rid of powdery mildew or mix 4 litres of water, 4 teaspoons of baking soda and half a cup of white oil as a spray.

The drought is continuing and we all need to be Waterwise. In 2019 we installed a pump to use the grey water from our showers and baths in the garden, we fixed our leaking toilet and got a pump and hose for our rainwater tank.

We can all reduce our water footprint with the following tips:

  • Take shorter showers.
  • Check for dripping taps and leaking
  • Only run the dishwasher and washing machine went it is full
  • Don’t put rubbish or chemicals down the drain.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean paths and driveways

I will continue to reduce, reuse and recycle and go beyond

Reduce Reuse Recycle Infographic
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle © WWF

Think about what changes you can make to the way you live and work to become more sustainable? What changes are we prepared to make as a community and nation that will help us achieve this goal?

I came across these World Wildlife Fund infographics on Sustainable Shopping and Food Waste that I wanted to share. They both provide simple and tangible actions that I can achieve.

Sustainable Shopping Infographic
Sustainable Shopping WWF
How Much Food Do We Waste? Probably More Than You Think! © WWF

Find out more

Becoming Waterwise

Water is essential for all life and is the most abundant substance on Earth, yet water scarcity is one of the biggest issues facing us today. Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent and 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record. Climate change is impacting the Australian landscape and the affects are already being felt with widespread droughts and the intense and early start to the fire seasons.

See how Climate Change will affect you.

You can be part of the solution by looking at your water usage and exploring ways that you can be more Waterwise and live more Sustainably.

There are many ways to be waterwise.

In the home

  • Take shorter showers.
  • Use the half flush button on your toilet instead of the full flush button.
  • Turn taps off when brushing teeth
  • Check for dripping taps
  • Only run the dishwasher or washing machine went it is full
  • Don’t put rubbish or chemicals down the drain.
  • Don’t turn the tap on too hard while washing your hands and turn off it properly.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean paths and driveways.
Save Water Infographic copyright @ Cienpies Design

In the garden

  • Water the garden early in the morning or in the evening because less water evaporates when it is cooler.
  • Plant Australian plants that are native to your area and mulch your garden.
  • Find alternatives to fertilisers and pesticides that may contain harmful chemicals.
  • Wash the car on the lawn.
  • Reuse your bath water for plants
  • Check for dripping taps
  • Collect rain water to use in the garden

Water Usage Calculator

Try out the Hunter Water: Water Usage Calculator to calculate how much water you use each year. The Water Use table lists how many litres of water are used for common household activities each day. You can also use this to calculate how much water you use each day and help you find areas to reduce consumption and become Waterwise.

Toilet (Single flush cistern) 
Toilet (Duel Flush)  
11 litres
3 litres for a half flush
6 litres for a full flush
Bath 100 litres
Shower (standard shower head)
Shower (low flow shower head)
20 litres/minute
10 litres/minute
Dishwasher load 12 litres
Washing machine load 90 litres
Brushing teeth with tap running 5 litres/minute
Drinking, cooking, cleaning10 litres person/day
Hand basin per use 5 litres
Garden sprinkler  15 litres/minute
Garden dripper per hour 15 litres/minute
Car Washing with hose 15 litres/minute
Hosing driveway 15 litres/minute
A dripping tap can waste up to200 litres of water/day
Leaking or running toilet    500 litres of water/day

Remember to check on your local water restrictions

Find out more about Water Scarcity and the impacts of Climate Change on Droughts with the following links:

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World Jellyfish Day

Jellyfish are in the phylum Cnidarians an ancient group of animals with a history of more than 650 million years. The word Cnidarian comes from the Ancient Greek: knide = nettle, named after a type of plant with stinging hairs. They have soft, hollow bodies, live in water and generally have tentacles.

Fun Fact: Moon Jelly can age backwards! They can revert back into polyp stage and then regrow into an adult again. Moon Jellies can also regenerate lost body parts.

Jellyfish: snack food of the sea

Jellyfish were once thought to be at the end of the food chain because they are have low nutritional content. New research shows that many species rely on Jellyfish as part of their diet including penguins, albatross, tuna, turtles, crabs and benthic microbes. Some animals even time their oceanic migrations to coincide with expansive jellyfish blooms like the Leatherback Turtle.

Concerns have been raised about the explosive growth of Jellyfish populations due to climate change, overfishing, nutrient runoff, and habitat modification. However this could be a positive in areas where fish and krill are in decline, as the importance of Jellyfish as a food source for marine animals will increase.

Find out more about these amazing animals

Did you know: the Bluebottle, Physalia utriculus is not a single animal but a colony? It is a colony of four kinds of zooids that are dependent on one another for survival.

  1. The float pneumatophore is a single individual and supports the rest of the colony.
  2. The tentacles dactylozooids are polyps concerned with the detection and capture of food and convey their prey to the digestive polyps.
  3. The digestive polyps gastrozooids breaks down the food
  4. The reproduction polyps gonozooids

Happy World Jellyfish Day

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