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water futures « Previous | |Next »
April 24, 2007

Severe water shortages are not just in south east Queensland. I've just spent five days holidaying on Kangaroo Island. Many parts of the Island ran out of water in October 2006. The Kingscote dam is near empty.

Water is being trucked in at great expense. Even the source for the trucked water--a private dam --- is not secure.

waterA.jpg
Alan Moir

The Island is drying out compared to five years ago when I was there. The immediate water crisis is the same as in in the Murray-Darling river system. It is the lack of rain and run off. So little rain has fallen this year. It hasn't rained for over a year in Kangaroo Island. The weather was like summer time. Everywhere we went there were signs about needing to conserve water. Most of the explanations by the Islanders were in terms of the drought --not climate change. Climate change was rarely mentioned.

What I was seeing was a hot dry world with little water. The Island already has a desalinisation plant at Penneshaw. More will be needed. The Island's economy was struggling as the old drivers of growth were doing it hard. Agriculture was on its last legs, whilst pastoralism was barely surviving with food or water. Without significant rain soon there will be no water for these industries in 2007-08. It is (international) tourism that was keeping the Island's economy going. Flinders Chase, which sells heritage, is a major economic player on the Island in terms of economic growth and employment.

If we come back to water futures then we need to think in terms of the long-term decline in runoff, less river flow and water as the effects of human-caused climate change, not just the drought. That means water allocations will need to be reduced for irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin--- for past over allocations and reduced river flows in the future.

Update: 26 April
It's been raining all day in Adelaide. Will it be the same pattern as last year--good autumn rains then nothing? Hence a year of below average rain?

John Quiggin has an interesting post on water. He says that in Queensland:

there is talk of evacuating towns that are running out of water. This seems an over-reaction (or more likely media beatup) to me. A reported cost of $8000 per week for tankers to supply water to a town of 1500 people is not a huge sum. Stlll, unless rainfall returns to higher levels soon, a lot of communities are going to face decline and maybe in some cases disappearance.

Quiggin also has an op-ed in the AFR on the politics of water as opposed to long term policy that addresses the long term effects of climate change. He rightly argues that Howard's Murray-Darling Basin takeover plan mainly consists of funding for on-farm works and is inadequate to the severity of the problem.

Quiggin has just posted the AFR op ed on his weblog.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:42 PM |