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a note on water « Previous | |Next »
August 19, 2004

I'n the last few days I've been travelling around the Eastern Mt Lofty Ranges and mallee country around the River Murray looking at the devastation wrought by state encouraged agricultural development. The result is denuded landscapes, saline groundwater rising to the surface, rivers that no longer flow few birds and fish.

Devastated landscapes are a very sorry sight. It is going to be a long hard haul to repair this country and to change old agricultural practices that devastate the ecology of the country.

The cities are facing water shortages. As the Sydney Morning Herald says little is being doen to address this:

"At present, just 2.3 per cent of Sydney's water is recycled, though this will double to 4.6 per cent in the coming months as the Port Kembla steelworks switches to recycled water. Sydney Water's most recent long-term planning document, Waterplan21, released seven years ago, envisaged raising recycled water use to just 6 per cent by 2021 - a very low figure. At the very least, an updated mid-term strategy is needed.

Manufacturing and industrial ventures use 11 per cent of water, vastly outweighed by households at 70 per cent, so that raising the recycled level for households is essential. Yet Rouse Hill is the only residential development in Sydney which incorporates water recycling. It is being expanded by 10,000 homes, bringing the total receiving a dual supply of drinking and recycled water to 25,000 homes, which is insignificant compared with annual housing construction in Sydney."

There is a similar lack of action in Adelaide, even though it too faces severe energy and water problems.

Into the vacuum step the old fashioned engineering modernists with their big dams and piping schemes to transport water across the country. The standard argument in The Age is this:

"Australia has no shortage of water in even its direst, driest years. It simply falls in the wrong places.The quantity of the northern falls is so vast that diverting south as little as 3 per cent of it would demolish the common view that water shortage is inevitable in Australia and that sick, depleted rivers and rationing (as opposed to sensible conservation) are crosses we simply have to bear.

What kind of projects would be feasible?

The first is to build dams in the flood-prone Flinders River region of central Queensland to pipe water south and so permanently resuscitate the Murray-Darling Basin and Adelaide. This proposal has been costed at $2 billion - less than the Commonwealth contribution already committed for stop-gap measures to ameliorate the basin area's present problems.

The second is to increase Perth's seriously threatened supplies by relieving it of its responsibility to send water to Kalgoorlie. Instead, the huge mining areas east and north-east would be supplied by pipeline from the remote and water-abundant Fitzroy River country."

So we can keep going the way we have with landclearing, standard agricultural practices, removing biodiversity.

These big machine modernists have no ecological understanding at all. They do not understand the nature of the country they live, nor how the economy depends on ecoology. And that's the problem.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:04 PM | | Comments (0)