Last week the Australian Prime Minister John Howard launched ‘A Nation Plan for Water Security’. It is a 10 point plan with a $10 billion budget to run for 10 years and it has generally been well received perhaps because many Australians feel there is a need for ‘water’ as an issue to be given a higher priority, for environmental flow issues and issues of over allocation to be sorted, and the provision of new water infrastructure fast tracked.
Most Australian live in a capital city and in almost every Australian capital city people have been inconvenienced by water restrictions. In Perth, Sydney and Brisbane city councils have even started reducing ‘water pressure in an attempt to ‘save’ more water as dam levels continue to drop.
I live in Brisbane and because of a failure by successive state governments to invest in infrastructure, a rapidly growing population and the drought, Level 4 water restrictions mean I can only water my garden with a bucket on particular days of the week between particular hours.
A planned plebiscite on the issue of drinking ‘recycling sewerage’ was cancelled yesterday with Premier Peter Beattie explaining that dams are so low we have no choice but to drink it.
A couple of thousand kilometers to the south in the Murray Valley irrigators who saved water late season by not growing a crop had half of this carry-over water taken from them by the New South Wales government just before Christmas after record low inflows in the upper catchment. Right now about 1,000 farms in this region are desperate for rain and running out of water for livestock for the first time since the beginning of irrigation in the region in the late 1930s.
Further south farmers are mopping up after a one in 50 year downpour flooded parts of South Australia and there was also good rain in central Australia and western Queensland earlier this month.
In the far north, where most of Australia’s rain has always fallen, there were good falls again last year and it could be argued that overall there has been a net increase in the amount of rain falling on the Australian landmass over the last 30 years.
But how useful is more rain in northern Australia, if water infrastructure and population are concentrated much further south?
The Prime Minister has suggested that there is a need for “a radical and permanent change in our water management practices” and that his 10 point plan will “improve water efficiency and address over-allocation of water in rural Australia”.
Will this mean there is more water for our cities?
Will the $10 billion plan proposed by the Prime Minister go someway towards securing Australia’s water future?
I plan to consider the 10 point plan, point by point through a series of blog posts.