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Adelaide: water crisis « Previous | |Next »
September 22, 2007

There has been little rain in Adelaide this winter. Consequently, the city is facing shrinking supplies, exacerbated by declining flows into the Murray River. The river still supplies 40 per cent of the city's water in an average year. However, inflows are at record low levels in the Murray Darling Basin, and the likelihood of permanent plantings like grapevines and orchards being lost has increased.

Experts have warned that Adelaide, which is under advanced Level 3 restrictions, could run out of water by the summer of 2008-09. Adelaide's current predicament is that this is not an average year, and so the city is currently sourcing 90 per cent of its water from dwindling Murray River supplies.


The city's reservoirs are a buffer against further deterioration of water quality (increased salinity) in the River Murray. Currently filled to about 80per cent of capacity, they provide eight months' water supply for Adelaide and will operate as a final emergency tank if supplies from the Murray run out.

Current water management under the Rann Government is restriction on demand. The "temporary" ban on domestic outdoor watering through September to help conserve water for summer continues. Level 3 water restrictions relate to nurseries, car washing, pools, spas, fountains and ponds remain the same and there is a ban on the use of household sprinklers, hoses and irrigation systems. However, drippers will be allowed after October 1, due to political pressure.

Adelaide is on long-term water restrictions as the key solution to managing our water requirements. We citizens are being increasingly told that urban water scarcity is inevitable, and we must learn to use less water to survive – buy low-use shower fittings, only water our lawns at night and wash our cars with buckets.The current policy is to deal with water scarcity by accepting another summer of water restrictions.

Although water restrictions have a part to play, they do not address the fundamental cause of our urban water scarcity – which is a lack of investment in new water supplies to meet the demands of growing populations and to cope better in the drier conditions of global warming.

Extra water is needed for Adelaide. The SA Government is planning to build a desalination plant to shore up Adelaide's water supply, but that won't be operational for another five years at least. Until then the water should be cut from irrigated agriculture. Total agriculture in the Murray-Darling area takes about 13,000 gigalitres per year, and the total income from that agricultural activity, without deducting any of the expenses like environmental degradation, the river degradation and so forth, is $2 billion a year. That's pretty expensive water, which really means that all this agricultural activity is very strongly subsidised indirectly by this water.

Time to cut the subsidies.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:07 AM | | Comments (9)


I am surprised that S.A isn't on level 5 like us. I see a real crisis coming down your way. The people in the city have to realize that water for crops in vastly more important than gardens.
The federal Government needs to get going on this quick smart and fund desalination plants with the money that is going to be spent on drought relief anyway.
Queensland people have consistently met their daily per person water quotas. No reason why the S.A people cant pull their heads in too.

I first thought this might apply to the squawkings in Queensland (the last of Beatty) and Victoria ( a mammoth beat-up in the "Age" ) of recent federal government moves to conserve water in the irrigation states.
Les seems to think it is "us "(SA) in trouble. I would rather have thought that big cotton and rice might be? Given a responsible government ( stop laughing, you lot!!) of either colour.
Afer all, people need water as well as plants.

Just when I was thinking that Communism was starting to look a good thing again there they go and spoil it. Those damn individuals!

Getting beyond thread topic but Les' feed reminded me of a doco on SBS just, late last night about factory working conditions in Chinese jeans factories.
"Hard" existence and the only dinkum worker activists were in hiding. The boss, a former policeman and earlier an underage worker himself, now in his new Merc, had attitudes toward his workers that would make the likes of Peter Hendy blush.


Those damn individuals had one car-free day popped on them out of the blue. Gary mentioned watering the lawn only at night. Here in Qld watering the lawn at night, or anytime, is practically unthinkable. We had a lot of time to get used to the idea. Every day is a watering-the-lawn free day because we got used to it slowly.

If you saw the recent Don Burke special (channel 9 Sunday night)it showed an interesting method of digging under your grass and placing a milk crate like system under ground. The rain water was run into this and then kind of drip fed up hill. They claimed it would keep the grass green all year.
They may have a link on the TV station web site.

we are beginning to hear stories of farmers walking off the land in SA.They planted big time in the autumn and borrowed money ---but the late winter rains never came and the crops are dying.

This is no drought.

Everyone thought hurray late last summer when the thing appeared to be breaking.
Good rains up to June and then someone turned the tap off, abruptly.
Apparently it's transpired that the rain- bringing La Nina that usually follows a deteriorating El Nino didn't turn up for the first time in a century. I was hoping for a repeat of '92, when all it did was rain, like back in the 'sixties.
But learnt recently that '92 was a freak year, because of the rain-creating haze caused by Mount Pinatubo exploding.
Saw on telly that all three oceans surrounding Australia are not acting "civilly": the Indian Ocean, Pacific and Southern Oceans.
With the Southern Ocean, the cold fronts are just not making it north any more bringing frontal rain and that's down to global warming.
Rather, the monsoon belt has moved south, so that Southern Australia is in effect closer to the desert than ever; in effect now trapped between the tropics and the southern frontal weather patterns.
Cheering, isnt it?
God bless the geniuses who created this mess and then slyly denied it for so long- so much like the tobacco companies, as to behaviours.

you are dead right about the rain patterns for southern Australia.