Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop To Drink


I don’t normally do stories like this. Usually I’m looking for an upbeat, positive angle on things. But on this occasion I’m changing tack, as a result of the extraordinary number of articles that have been flooding the Australian national broadcaster on this topic in just the past few days. I guess one benefit, may be that people’s self interest might extend beyond their plasma TV as they finally begin to glimpse the bigger picture. [Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs suggests that after breathing and regulating our body temp our most basic human need is to drink water.] Let's start with the international expert saying Sydney is competing with Mexico City and Beijing to be the first city to run out of drinking water. The same state’s water patrols have reportedly inspected 350,000 properties in an effort to save 200 billion litres of water from being wasted. The rural city of Bendigo, in the state of Victoria, believe they won’t have sufficient drinking water for their 95,000 residents within the next 15 months. And one of that state’s wettest farming regions, Gippsland, is also running dry. A major dam is only at 24% capacity and falling, with summer still two months away. (In a side story, one company, who we’ve mentioned before is looking to export potable water to the mainland from the island state of Tasmania, in converted oil tankers.)To the north of Victoria, the Goulburn Valley, one of Australia's biggest fruit producing areas has been told make do with just 21% of its annual water entitlements. As one farmer observed, this is the driest period on record since 1902, with the government forecaster is predicting a nearby region’s oat crop will fall in line with a national trend that could see it 36% below last year’s harvest. Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is staring down the possibility of even deeper water restrictions, as water flows in the massive Murray River system get even worse than normal. Over in Western Australia, there have been protests by indigenous people over the likely environmental impacts of that state’s capital extracting 45 gigalitres a year from the Yarragadee Aquifer. And even in the nation’s capital, Canberra, second stage water restrictions are expected to be enforced next month. A new book has just hit the shelves, urging for a national water audit system that forces all Australians from irrigators to brewers to account for their water usage. And if they don’t demonstrate certain performance standards they should lose their water access. All the while, The Weather Makers author, Tim Flannery has been cruising the nation’s river systems in a ‘tin’ boat, pondering the logic (or otherwise) of growing of water intensive cotton and rice on the globe’s driest continent (after Antarctica, that is). These news stories may be but a week old, however the writing has been on the wall for decades, it’s just that no-one has wanted to read it. So while some of the planet’s current geo-political turmoil might be the result of fighting for dwindling oil reserves, that’s just a kid’s pillow fight compared to the upcoming tussle for life-giving water.