Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

water politics « Previous | |Next »
June 23, 2006

Although there is a lot of political talk about the importance of water in Australia and water restrictions in capital cities, the National Water Initiative, just like the Living Murray Initiative, has stalled. Water politics has become bogged down in squabbling amongst the states and the commonwealth over money, whilst the politicians address the need for water recycling in terms of the poo factor--true blue Aussies just won't drink shit!

Sure, there is a need to address the underpricing of water use given the low levels of the dams in Queensland.
Water.jpg But (purified) water recycling in a warming world offers the possibilities of long-term sustainable water use.

Yet state governments in NSW and Queensland duck and weave on this, even though parts of their states will run out of water in the near future.

A good example is drought-stricken Goulburne in NSW and south-east Queensland (some areas excepted), which will run out of water if the next two rainy seasons fail to drop rain on the catchment sites. With Brisbane's three dams already falling below a combined 30%, the Queensland capital was in as severe a water predicament as Toowoomba and searching for answers – that will be found in recycling.

Isn't it time to question the deeply held assumption that there will be an endless supply of water for agricultural, industrial and domestic use. Wouldn't that be taking the effect of climate change ---a warmed up world---seriously? That we need to to live with less water.

Since water conservation is now an everyday reality in our capital and regional cities we need to get smart in the way we use it. That is something the Queensland and NSW state governments have yet to do. The Beattie Government in Queensland still thinks that the water crisis of South East Queensland is best addressed by building two very expensive and unreliable dams; and it reckons that this is better than recycling fully treated water back into our water supplies and catchments. Unreliable because the water crisis in southeast Queensland is substantially caused by the reduction of rainfall in Brisbane, Toowoomba and Gold Coast catchments, which then affected inflows into the reservoirs of southeast Queensland.

Meanwhile the number of trees and shrubs that have died from lack of water will continue to rise.

Update: 25 June
And in the Murray-Darling Basin the irrigators who rely on the Murray and Goulburn irrigation schemes are being forced by their banks to sell their water rights or face foreclosure and financial ruin.These dried fruit, wine grape and citrus growers are succumbing to pressure to permanently or temporarily sell their water, even though this will make family farms unviable and practically unsaleable.The report in The Age

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:09 PM | | Comments (5)


Gary - too true. And FYI, people are waking up and fighting back. The Qld Greens are planning to converge on Toowoomba for the water recycling referendum next month - all of Australia should be watching carefully as this will soon likely be coming to a resevoir near you in many parts of this wide brown land.

It would seem that the Toowoomba referendum on recycled water in July is the cutting edge of the debate on water recycling in Australia.

Why has Toowoomba mayor Di Thorley organized a referendum of the city’s population for July to decide whether or not it will proceed with adding dialysis-standard, recycled sewerage water back into the city’s dam?

Was that imposed on the Twoowoomba City Council by the federal Government? Can we see the hand of Malcolm Turnball in this? A referendum--comunity support--- is the condition of federal funding? Why this kind of craziness?

I thought that the Twoowoomba Council had made an exhaustive study of its water options and decided that water recycling was more cost effective and eficient than the alternatives?

Where does the Beattie Government stand? Is it behind a yes vote in the referendum? As far as I understand Premier Beattie has said that replenishing dams with recycled water was not government policy, but remained the "Armageddon solution" if it did not rain.

Another question. Is the absence of rain around the southeast Queensland catchment areas more the result of local air pollution, rather than global greenhouse effects?

Gary, my understanding is that Toowoomba plan has divided the community thanks to a active campaign by large irrigators who will lose out if grey water is diverted to the dam. This, plus the oft-commented on "yuck" factor implicit in the (erroneous) phrase, "toilet to tap".

SEQ Water, the new uberwater quango set up by Beattie, has set out a 13 step plan that means the mega-dams won't be needed but this seems to have been ignored during the froth and bubble of the politics. Beattie in my view carries the responsiblity for this, along with Springborg, who have both been quite lame on water recycling.

The reality is - water recycling IS govt policy, but Beattie doesn't have the guts to come out and take a stand that requires he go out on a bit of limb in favour of correct policy - instead he just wants to stand in front of a pile of concrete and claim he did something to avert the crisis by building two large new dams.

I'm suprised by the 'yuk' response when one in four Queenslanders is currently drinking treated sewage effluent, according to Environmental Protection Agency records.

This happens when a town's drinking water is often sourced from waterways into which treated effluent has been discharged upstream.

Isn't the process to be tested for a number of years before water begins to be used around 2010?

How will the large irrigators lose out if purified grey water is diverted to the dam? Isn't that more water for them?

What do those who oppose Toowoomba's Water Futures proposal suggest instead to the fear of 'Poowoomba'? They have to find a new source of water to prevent the city running out of water. They (CAD--Citizens Against Drinking Sewage) keep saying that there are some very significant sources available for Toowoomba---Commerce Queensland, for instance,says that 'numerous alternatives have been identified and are feasible.' What are these? Wait for the rains? Mine bore water? Build a new dam? Piping water in from other regions?

What suprises me is that the Beattie Government has agreed to provide $23million for the recycling project but is unwilling to publicly support it.

What if there are no real alternatives as the Council says?

To brink this debate up to date:

Toowoomba Chronicle September 7 2006

TOOWOOMBA will not run out of water.

That’s the promise of Toowoomba Mayor Dianne Thorley after some heavy duty number- crunching this week revealed the City's existing bore production had been underestimated.

Initial predictions that an extra 20 viable basalt bores would be needed were revised and it was revealed just 13 would successfully yield the 5000 megalitres a year required.

However the Department of Natural Resources and Mines is still considering the council’s requested increased allocation. Cr Thorley said the bores, as well as the planned drillings into the Great Artesian Basin should stave off the need for the city to import more expensive emergency water supplies from Cambooya and Oakey.

Five of the nine drillings around the city have already been successful but drilling will continue on the extra seven bores, although they will be capped for emergency use.

The realisation came as Toowoomba City Council was told the installation costs had blown out from $170,000 to $320,000 per bore.

There was also a scorching from an unimpressed No case proponent Rosemary Morley.

Mrs Morley said: “Even if the Yes case had got up, people have to understand this is exactly where we were going to be because it (Water Futures) wasn't going to be ready until February 2009.”

She was critical that council was not moving quickly enough and was outraged by threats of a Level 6 water restriction.

“Because we had the audacity to vote No - or a good percentage of us — this is our punishment to threaten us. This is absurd” she said

Cr Thorley said the council had to wait to secure busy contractors and had been drilling since last year.