Three times as many people die from heat-related deaths in Sydney’s west than its east during extreme temperature events, according to new research from the University of NSW and Sydney Water. But the installation of more public fountains, ponds and mist could decrease extreme temperatures and reduce heat-related deaths by 50 per cent.
Water technology combined with additional canopies and greenery, and cool pavement materials could also lead to a five per cent drop in peak electricity demand.
“As Sydney is set to experience more prolonged summer heatwaves in the future due to a changing climate, it will be critical for temperature peaks to be reduced to improve thermal comfort,” Sydney Water research direction and value manager Dr Michael Storey said.
“The careful selection of water-based technologies and building materials can take the top off the peak temperatures in extreme heatwave conditions in Sydney’s west.”
Western Sydney receives little relief from cool sea breezes because of its location between the Blue Mountains and the CBD, with summer temperatures 6-10°C higher than in the east, the Cooling Western Sydney study revealed.
With up to three times as many heat-related deaths during extreme temperatures compared to the east, the far west could see a reduction in these deaths from 14 to 7.5 people per 100,000 people, the report said.
The researchers collaborated with the CRC for Low Carbon Living and examined eight sites in the west from 2014-2017, including Penrith, Canterbury, Liverpool, Bankstown, Fairfield, Campbelltown, Hawkesbury and Parramatta.
Together they found that installing water systems such as pools, sprinklers, fountains, evaporative wind towers and water curtains in combination with high-reflective materials like infrared reflective tiles and white cool roofs could decrease temperatures by 2.5 degrees.
The amount of energy savings would be equivalent to the amount used to power about 262,000 homes for a year, which also equals almost one million tonnes of avoided CO2 emissions.
UNSW high performance architecture professor and lead researcher of the study Mat Santamouris said we couldn’t solely rely on green space as a means of cooling the city because trees were also subject to extreme heat stress, which go into survival mode to conserve water to keep themselves cool.
“The solution is not just about planting trees, which seems to be the commonly held view,” Mr Santamouris said.
“We must take a multi-faceted approach that includes using water technology and high solar reflectance, or albedo on roofs, building facades and pavements.”