Ken Smith, Coordinator-General and Director-General,
Department of Infrastructure, Queensland Government.
A recent publication circulated by your Department, Water for the Future, argued that Queensland is experiencing the worst drought in more than 100 years. It included the following diagram to make this point, and at face value this implies that unforeseeable drought is the major cause of southeast Queensland’s water supply crisis.
However, others observers have offered different explanations, some of which which I have outlined in Structural Incompetence and SE Queensland’s Water Crisis.
In particular, it has been suggested that SE Queensland’s catchments (Wivenhoe in particular) are subject to very infrequent but large water inflows, with low inflows at other times sometimes for long periods. This hypothesis implies that:
The current series of years with low inflows would not be unique and should have been anticipated. If so, institutional incompetence is part of the cause of SE Queensland’s current crisis; and the diagram your Department presented might give a false impression of the situation, as it shows high past inflows averaged over long periods that potentially conceal this problem (ie infrequent large inflows and many years of low inflows).
I would appreciate clarification of the facts of the matter, as this has serious implications for public confidence in the institutions that have been responsible for water supply management in Queensland.
Centre for Policy and Development Systems