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There's a wonderful book that was published by The Victorian Women's Trust some time ago, back in 2007 at the height of the 10 years "millennium drought" (as it was named). It's called …

Our Water Mark - Australians making a difference in water reform
Download a copy here

WATER is a critical issue for every person on Earth, and none more so than in Australia - the driest continent. As with much of Australia's natural resources, water has been over-extracted, mis-used, and ab-used. In per-capita terms, the use of water is one of the highest on the planet. Only when there is a drought and when scarcity begins to bite deep, does attention turn to alternative options. 

And only when it rains does long-term memory of water scarcity fade like smoke in the air … until the next drought.

Despite the hardship, lessons learned, and new water infrastructure constructed (e.g. desalination plants in major cities) during the "millenium" drought of 2000-2010, Australia still has not solved the water issue … and possibly never will.

The commodification of water in the early 1990's placed an economic value on it, separated it from common land title, thus allowing it to be traded on the open market. This so-called efficiency has been driving massive reforms in the rural sector, and has contributed to contraction of regulated water delivery in irrigation areas - e.g. Shepparton Irrigation Area in Victoria.

It has also resulted in the corporatisation of water.

Water is the most precious resource for life. There is only a finite amount of water in the hydrological system. And yet at times - with the over-extraction of groundwater, increasing salinity of groundwater and surface water, wastage of water, inefficient use of fresh water, inadequate harvesting of rain water – one could be forgiven for thinking that some communities will forever be in a “water crisis” of some sort or another. 

It need not be that way if water capture and storage and water-use efficiency at the local level and at the property scale are the main principles of water availability. It is about personal responsibility, and taking control of the controllable.

By the middle of this century, at worst seven billion people in 60 countries will be faced with water scarcity, at best 2 billion in 48 countries, depending on factors like population growth and policy making. Climate change will account for an estimated 20% of this increase in global water scarcity … Water quality will worsen with rising pollution levels and water temperatures.

New Technology for Infrastructure - the World of Tomorrow, ATSE Symposium, Sydney 2006

Do you know in the past 20 years we have doubled the amount of water we have pulled out of our rivers, our surface water, for water irrigation, and trebled the amount we've pulled out of the ground for irrigation? So it's a bit like the old 6 o'clock swill when the pubs closed at 6 o'clock, and just as the minute hand was getting to the 12 everyone would order more rounds of drinks because they wanted to belt them down before the publican said "Time gentlemen please".

Malcolm Turnbull MP, speech to the Sydney Institute, 28 August 2006

A Comment 22 September 2017

Malcolm Turnbull is now Prime Minister of Australia. What has now happened since that "enlightenment" more than 11 years ago? 

A so-called Basin Plan for the Murray-Darling system, on balance now a failure.

Water theft from upper Basin catchments by large scale irrigators

NSW government bureaucrats colluding with irrigators to extract more from the system, contrary to law and the Basin Plan. 

Inequity of water allocations

Water-stressed communities with almost total reliance on the Murray-Darling system

Inadequate environmental water allocation

And much more. But to cap it all off, Australia has a Water Minister who is leader of a Coalition party, who is Minister for Agriculture and who believes that more water should be extracted for “development”. This Water Minister does not believe in the Basin Plan, because if he did, there would be prosecutions everywhere. 

It is appalling. From the Prime Minister down, there is just one understanding - economic development. At any cost. Consequences don’t matter. Because they will be dust when everything else turns to dust.


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