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Water and urban life « Previous | |Next »
May 25, 2004

I attended a public lecture on the significance of water for Adelaide's future as a city last night. It was given by Professor Peter Cullen in the Adelaide Town Hall as part of the thinkers in residence programme. An earlier talk by Cullen can be found here.

The public lecture was a stellar event. The town hall was packed. All the important movers and shakers in public policy were there. The nation is facing a water crisis where demand oustrips supply. But we gathered together in Adelaide to hear the assumptions underpining our taken-for-granted way of life being challenged. The basic assumption in Adelaide is that you can protect the river's health and continue to take the water that you need from the river whilst pointing the the finger of blame upstream. You still hear water dreaming about towing icebergs from Antarctica to solve Adelaide's water problems.

Cullen's talk was entitled 'Making Waves - water challenges for Adelaide in the 21st Century'. It outlined how South Australians need to create a sustainable environment in which our scarce water resources are respected and managed. He argued that Adelaide cannot rely on the River Murray as a lifeline anymore. It must start to think in an innovative way, rather than just assume that increased economic growth will continue to underpinned by the ecological health of the river country. All that needs to happen if for the eastern states to sort out their conflicts.

The city cannot assume this because Adelaide is going to face a water squeeze in the next 50 years. The water may not be there, and if it is, the water may well be too salty to be drinkable or usable. Adelaide, however, was not facing up this. Economics ruled, not ecology. The urban culture was very complacent about continuing to assume that the River Murray would continue to act as the city's ecological life support system. So world's best practice in water management is needed to deal with the water squeeze.

Adelaide has to work out how to live sustainably in a dry country by protecting the sources of water, manage the reduction in demand and find alternative sources of water. Doing this will mean that Adelaide will need to become innovative and clever.

So it is not just the wasteful upstream rice growers taking too much water as South Australians point out. South Australia needs to get its own house in order and claw back water from its own irrigators. It also has to start doing something about the wastage of River Murray water by Adelaide urban users who are currenly pouring 50% of that water on the water-guzzling European gardens. Why aren't they using recycled storm and water for their English gardens?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:58 PM | | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

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If you were going for the Guinness Book of Records 'shortest blogpost in history', you failed by a word. I remember Atrios posting the word 'fuck' once, hyperlinked to some Bush atrocity or or other.

Glenn I was very tired.

I could not write up Cullen's public water lecture last night.

I'd taken the notes but my mind could not translate them into a post.

The water squeeze should be seen as an opportunity for SA to develop new technologies to not only survive but prosper - could even lead to new exports and jobs.

It poses the issues of the economy quite succinctly.

Innovate or perish. No doubt the free marketeers will say the government should stay of it; Treasury will say we cannot afford it; Quadrant and the Institute of Public Affairs will say its green gloom and doom and so on.

Change at the management end is bound to be expensive ... full commercial rates, including opportunity costs of course, for the privatised water systems throughout SA.


true. But it has to come.What's the alternative? The fantasy-land proposals from Farmhand?

Some of the ideas of their 'Grand Water Scheme Five-Point Plan,' are good: eg., undertake a national water audit; fix and rebuild rural water infrastructure; develop the world's best irrigation industry; recycle town and city water.

But the plan and fund for a future water grid is fantasy. This is grid that would harvest water where it falls (northern Australia) collect agricultural run-off and link water supplies, in a manner similar to the national electricity grid. It is a system that included agricultural land would cost about $300 billion, with an annual operating cost of $6 billion.

Why don't these guys think solar powered desalination and develop innovative green industry in Australia. Or shift agriculture to the tropical north?