Showing posts with label #WaterIsLife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #WaterIsLife. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Clarence River water raiders still meeting opposition to their plans


The Daily Examiner, 12 October 2019:

In a not-so-strange coincidence it was the mayor of Tenterfield who had a starring role in the origins of the Not a Drop campaign in 2006.
In words eerily similar to those being heard today, the then Mayor of Tenterfield, Keith Pickstone, said “We are in a drastic situation so anything has to be looked at, whether it be damming or diverting.”
But while it was Mr Pickstone who was front and centre at the launch of Not a Drop on December 16, 2006, Peter Ellem, The Daily Examiner editor at the time, explained he wasn’t the catalyst.
“It was (Malcolm) Turnbull’s intervention in it, it was the federal intervention.”
At the time Malcolm Turnbull, parliamentary secretary for Water and then Minister for Water and Environment, commissioned a study into the feasibility of the Northern Rivers sharing water with a drought ravaged south-east Queensland.
The resurrection of the Clarence River diversion at a federal level prompted The Daily Examiner to run a campaign Mr Ellem says was “one of the more high-profile” campaigns run during his time there.
Having researched the many diversion schemes which had come before, Mr Ellem said “it just didn’t seem right” that our river system should be “violated” to patch up other river systems.
In his editorial launching the campaign – printed opposite – he outlined clearly why the paper was taking a stand.
This stood in stark contrast to the Examiner’s interventions back before 1969 and Mr Ellem put that down to a change in the way the community understood environmental issues and scrutinised people in public life.
“It was a very different time.
“The environment didn’t rate a mention and the science would not have been developed to a great degree back then.”
Mr Ellem looks back on that time with pride and says you can still see the odd Not a Drop bumper sticker on the back of a ute.
“It tapped into a very strong public sentiment which remains solid. My view is there is only a very small minority of people who entertain the idea (of diversion).”

Monday, 7 October 2019

Groundwater plays a critical role for rivers worldwide and many aquifers are in trouble


National Geographic, 2 October 2019:

There’s more fresh water hidden below Earth’s surface in underground aquifers than any other source besides the ice sheets. That groundwater plays a critical role for rivers worldwide, from the San Pedro to the Ganges, keeping them running even when droughts bring their waters low. 

But in recent decades humans have pumped trillions of gallons out of those underground reservoirs. The result, says research published Wednesday in Nature, is a “slow desiccation” of thousands of river ecosystems worldwide. Already, somewhere between 15 and 21 percent of watersheds that experience groundwater extraction have slipped past a critical ecological threshold, the authors say—and by 2050, that number could skyrocket to somewhere between 40 and 79 percent. 

That means hundreds of rivers and streams around the world would become so water-stressed that their flora and fauna would hit a danger point, says Inge de Graaf, the lead author of the study and a hydrologist at the University of Freiburg. 

“We can really consider this ecological effect like a ticking time bomb,” she says. “If we pump the groundwater now, we don’t see the impacts until like 10 years further or even longer. So what we do right now will impact our environment for many years to come.” 

Groundwater holds up modern life 

The last undammed river in the U.S. Southwest, the San Pedro of southwestern Arizona, used to gush and roil. Birds chirped and splashed on its banks when they stopped by on their migrations. Rare fish swam in its pools. 

But in the 1940s, wells started to pop up in the nearby area, sucking clean, cool water out of the region’s underground aquifers

It turned out that a good portion of the water that flowed through the river came not from rain and upstream snowmelt, but from those underground sources. The more water that got pumped out of the aquifers, the less flowed into the river—and the wetlands, cottonwood stands, fauna, and rushing waters of the San Pedro all suffered. 

Groundwater is the hidden scaffold propping up much of modern life. Globally, about 40 percent of the food we grow is watered with liquid extracted from below Earth’s surface. 

But many of the aquifers from which this water is extracted took hundreds, or even tens of thousands of years to fill: The water inside may have percolated through cracks in the earth when giant ice sheets last covered New York City 20 thousand years ago. 

Much of that water is being removed much faster than it can be replenished. That has enormous potential consequences for people who want to drink water grow and crops in areas that don’t get enough rain. But far before those impacts emerge, the effects will—and in fact already have—hit rivers, streams, and the habitats around them. 

“Think of an aquifer like a bathtub full of water and sand,” explains Eloise Kendy, a freshwater scientist at the Nature Conservancy. Then, imagine running your finger lightly through the top of the sand, creating a little trail. That little trail fills up with water that percolates through the sand into the “stream.” 

“If you pump out just a little bit of water out of the bathtub, that stream is going to dry out, even though there’s plenty of water still left in the bathtub,” she says. "But as far as healthy rivers go, you’ve destroyed it. But because rivers don’t scream and shout, we don’t necessarily know that they’re in trouble.” 

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

A reminder of some of the times Clarence Valley communities said 'No' to Murray-Darling Basin water raiders in the last 80 years


Queensland Times (Ipswich Qld), 13 May 1947:


Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, 13 March 1950:


Warwick Daily News (Qld), 11  January 1952:


Images from Trove, retrieved 28 September 2019


26 September 1969:

CANBERRA, Thurs. — A $400 million scheme to divert the surplus waters of the Clarence River into the Darling was submitted to the Commonwealth to-day.

Cost of the scheme, to be met primarily by the Commonwealth, would be spread over 30 years.

A deputation of eight members of the Barwon-Darling Water Association submitted the plan to the Minister for National Development, Mr. David Fairbairn.

Almost on par with the great Snowy Mountain hydro-electric scheme, it envisages:

A multi-million increase in wool production.

A vast outback development in decentralisation.

Attraction of many thousands of farmers to the west.

Substantial increase in storage capacity of the Darling.

Additional houses, schools and industry “out west.”

Overall revitalisation of farming and grazing development.

27 September 1969:

Local Needs Before Diversion Of Water

The diversion of surplus waters of the Clarence River to the west should only be considered after a thorough investigation of the potential for development and the water requirements of our own valley have been ascertained.”

The Mayor of Grafton and chairman of the Clarence River (Flood Mitigation) County Council, Ald. N. G. Weiley, made this comment last night.

Clarence Environment Centre, June 2007:

Let the rivers run to the sea

The notion of diverting water from the Clarence River catchment to other parts of Australia surfaces every few years. It usually gets dismissed as the hare-brained scheme of some mad old engineer or outback dinosaur mayor.

This time it feels different. A combination of factors – badly-planned urban growth in southeast Queensland, the upcoming Federal election and the drought– have led to the Clarence coming under the cold and acquisitive eye of the Federal government and its engineers.

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull commissioned the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation to do a ‘short term desk-top review on the identification and definition of issues associated with improving urban water supply security in South East Queensland and North East New South Wales by accessing water from the Northern Rivers of NSW.’ 

Bumper sticker from the successfu 2007 'Not A Drop' campaign against damming and diverting Clarence River catchment water:



The Northern Star, 14 February 2013:

"HOW dare they even mention the words dam or diversion."
That was the reaction of Page MP Janelle Saffin on Thursday to the news the Coalition was considering building dams and a weir on the Clarence and Mann rivers.
Water from the dams and the weir would be piped to the Logan River in Queensland.
A leaked draft Coalition policy discussion paper obtained by News Limited contained proposals to build up to 100 dams across Australia.
The idea to divert water from the Clarence has been kicked around for decades but has always met with fierce opposition.
Ms Saffin said she was "disturbed but not surprised" by the report.
"The federal Liberal and National parties still have their eyes on the Clarence," Ms Saffin told APN Newsdesk.
"They talk a lot about diverting rivers, about damming without any consultation whatsoever with local communities, local councils.
"It's fanciful to think you can talk about damming or diverting the Clarence. You can't."
Ms Saffin predicted the issue of damming or diverting water from the Clarence Valley would become an election issue, just as it was in 2007 when Malcolm Turnbull was water minister.
She referred to The Daily Examiner's successful Not A Drop campaign and said the community sentiment remained six years on.
"It still exists and in fact it would be stronger. With the issues swirling around with CSG and water there's even more of a strong feeling in the community about 'don't touch our water'," she said.
"To even hear a hint the Federal Coalition ... would go near the Clarence is enough to scare people."
Ms Saffin did concede each dam proposal should be treated on its merits, but said it was not an option for the Clarence.
As if sensing the political damage the leaking of the report might do to his chances of wresting Page from Ms Saffin, Nationals candidate Kevin Hogan issued a statement "categorically ruling out" the damming of the Clarence or Mann rivers.......
The Daily Examiner via Press Reader, 19 May 2018:

Monday, 30 September 2019

Water raiders drop the pretence and go for source of Clarence Valley's drinking water


Having degraded their own rivers and failed to adequately plan their own water security for times of drought, local governments in the Murray-Darling Basin are calling for damming and diversion of water from the Northern NSW Clarence River system.

Thus far the Maryland River and the Aberfoyle River have been identified as desirable options by these wannabee water raiders. 

This is the Clarence River Catchment.
via Blicks River Guardians

The Aberfolye River is shown in the left hand lower curve of the catchment boundary.

The river is approximately 115km in length with an annual average water flow of 19,482 ML.

The Aberfoyle River* empties into the Guy Fawkes River which in turn runs into the Boyd River which is a tributary of the Nymbodia River which itself is the greatest contributor of water to the Clarence River system and the source of at least 95 per cent of Clarence Valley drinking water.

The Nymboida River is also the source for water storage held in the 30,000Ml Shannon Creek side dam which supplies water security for a combined total of 128,198 residents (as well as local businesses and over 5 million tourists annually) in Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour City local government areas.

Ten years ago the Nymboida was supplying water for a population of 95,000 - in forty years time it is conservatively expected to supply 220,000.


This proposal appears to be based on one of fourteen Clarence River diversion schemes 'desktop' investigated in the early 1980s - specifically a proposed dam on the Aberfoyle diverting water to either Happy Valley, Boorolong or Teatree creeks to feed the Gwydir River, or alternatively an Aberfoyle dam to feed the Gara River. 

Drawing more water from the Upper Nymboida sub-catchment will in all probability raise hydrological and environmental stress on the entire Nymboida River and, may result in water levels at the Nymboida Weir falling below the 225Ml/D low flow level pumping cutoff up to est. 80 per cent of the time.

At the time of writing the Nymboida flow was 200Ml/D.

Indeed, given that rainfall decline has been occurring in the Northern Rivers region for around five decades, any further decline in available river water to supply daily use and long-term water storage has the potential to see intractable water scarcity develop in Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour City local government areas, as well as a sharp decline in the health of the Nymboida River.

The rest of eastern Australia needs to realise that the Clarence River system is not filled to the brim with harvestable water. The 500,000,000Ml of water annually discharging into the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Clarence River was a myth from the first time it was calculated.

Even Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour City councils will have to curb their desire for continuous development, as they probably have less than twenty years of water security remaining even if the wall of Shannon Creek Dam were to be raised.

Since the Millennium Drought Clarence Valley households have been on permanent low level water use restrictions as a precautionary measure, but as this current drought** may indicate that severe drought is no longer an anomaly but an everyday fact of life, we may be facing a higher level of permanent water restrictions very soon. 

Note

The Devils Chimney in the Aberfoyle River gorge was declared an Aboriginal Place on 8 August 1980. It is protected under under Section 90 of the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974 and can not be damaged, defaced or destroyed without the consent of the NPW Director-General. Unfortunately the NSW Berejiklian Government does allow for damage and destruction of such sites.

** The NSW DPI Clarence Valley Drought Map as of 24 September 2019:

CDI = Combined Drought Indicator. RI = Rainfall Index. SWI = Soil Water Index. PGI = Pasture Growth Index. DDI = Drought Direction Index
Data current to 24/9/2019 (AEST)

Friday, 27 September 2019

If anything marks this NSW National Party politician out as a foolish man it is this......


Sometime between 23 and 24 September 2019 NSW Nationals MP for Clarence and Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads and InfrastructureChris Gulaptis, told The Daily Examiner that those who want to dam and divert water from the Clarence River catchment for inter-basin and/or interstate transfer should raise the matter when the Clarence is in flood.

His exact words were; Let’s have that discussion when we’re in a flood”.

A statement which presumes that, with diminishing rainfall and increased evaporation rates being part of both the Clarence Valley's present and its future, drawing water for an additional 236,984 people, their farms and businesses is in anyway feasible even during a passing flood.

This water extraction would be on top of the current draw for the combined population of Clarence Valley LGA and Coff Habour City LGA - 128,198 people, their farms and businesses, as well as water for over 5 million tourists annually.

Indeed this entire article is typical Gulaptis, who more times than not has to be dragged metaphorically kicking and screaming to defend the Clarence Valley from the ignorance and avarice of a Coalition government of which he is a member.

The Daily Examiner, 25 September 2019, p.3:
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis has hit back at claims the government is secretly working on a plan to divert coastal rivers inland to drought-stricken rivers out west.
Mr Gulaptis’s comments come after The Guardian reported the NSW government was secretly exploring a plan to turn the state’s coastal rivers inland to provide more water for irrigators and towns in the west of the state.
According to The Guardian, WaterNSW documents obtained under freedom of information show significant work has been done recently on at least four projects involving pumping water from coastal rivers over the Great Dividing Range to replenish western rivers.
The Guardian said the main focus of work has been on turning the headwaters of the Clarence inland via a network of pipes and pumps into headwaters of the Border rivers.
Mr Gulaptis said he hasn’t heard of any plans being put into action.
My discussions with the water minister have been along the vein that they are outdated plans which are not a priority of the government,” he said.
It’s been on the books for a long period of time, and it gets rehashed every time there’s a drought.”
Mr Gulaptis said he would not support any such plans, especially due to the current vulnerability of the North Coast region.
The North Coast isn’t immune to drought – we’re in the grips of one of the worst droughts we’ve ever had and there isn’t any water for us to spare.”
Mr Gulaptis said he believes the plan is a “fanciful idea”.
Let’s have that discussion when we’re in a flood,” he said.
Despite Mr Gulaptis’s denial, The Guardian said the documents showed WaterNSW was discussing some projects with western irrigators last year and that it had commissioned hydrological analysis for some projects this year.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Quote of the Week


"NSW is experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record, with the Central West, Far West and North West regions the worst affected to date. There have been extreme low inflows (the amount of water entering the river and its storages) – the past six months have seen the lowest recorded inflows in history. ..... Without imminent inflows, the lack of water will continue to impact water quality and the riverine environment, while curtailing agricultural production."  [WaterNSW, Regional Drought Information, August 2019]

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Spring is not likely to bring much joy for those watching the skies for rain and cool weather in NSW


Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), Drought, 7 August 2019: 

Rainfall deficiencies have affected most of the New South Wales, Queensland and South Australian parts of the Murray-Darling Basin since the start of 2017. 

These longer-term deficiencies extend to parts of the New South Wales coast, particularly in the Hunter and Illawarra districts, and to much of the eastern half of South Australia from Adelaide northwards. 

The deficiencies have been most extreme in the northern Murray-Darling Basin, especially in the northern half of New South Wales, where areas of lowest on record rainfall extend from the Great Dividing Range west as far as Dubbo and Walgett. 

Some of the largest rainfall deficiencies have occurred in the upper catchments of some of the major tributaries of the Darling, including the Macquarie, the Namoi-Peel and the Border Rivers. 

The 31 months from January 2017 to July 2019 has been the driest on record averaged over the Murray-Darling Basin (32% below the 1961-1990 average), as well as over the northern Murray-Darling Basin (38% below average) and for the state of New South Wales (33% below average). 

All three regions rank second-driest on record, for the 25 months from July 2017 to July 2019, and the 19 months from January 2018 to July 2019; only the 1900-02 peak of the Federation Drought has been drier. 

The last 31 months have also been the driest on record averaged over the Macquarie-Bogan, Namoi, Gwydir and Castlereagh catchments, with the last three also driest on record for the last 19 months. 

The dry conditions of the last three years have been particularly acute during the cool season, which is important in many regions for generating runoff. 

Rainfall for the period from April to September was less than 50% of average in both 2017 and 2018 in 14 of the 30 rainfall districts of New South Wales. 

In 13 of these 14 districts, rainfall from April 2019 to date is also less than 50% of average. 

The Central Western Plains (North), which encompasses Nyngan, Trangie, Gilgandra and Coonamble, has had less than one-third of its average cool-season rainfall in all three years. 

Another area of longer-term rainfall deficiencies affects Gippsland, in eastern Victoria, and the east coast of Tasmania. Both the West Gippsland and East Gippsland districts have had their driest 31 months on record, with a substantial area of record low rainfall in central Gippsland centred on Sale and Bairnsdale.

Drier and warmer conditions are expected over much of mainland Australia from September through to November 2019, according to BOM

A drier than average spring is likely for most of Australia, except the western coastline and far southeast.

NSW DPI Drought Maps, 26 August 2019:

CDI = Combined Drought Indicator. RI = Rainfall Index. SWI = Soil Water Index. PGI = Pasture Growth Index. DDI = Drought Direction Index


Monday, 15 July 2019

The national scandal that is the Murray-Darling Basin continues unabated


On the morning of Friday 12 July 2019 NSW Water's real-time records showed that much of the Murray-Darling Basin river systems where they pass through New South Wales are still recording less than 20 per cent water flows, with some sections of the Darling River still regularly recording zero flows and water levels as low as 0.16 of a metre.  

Water sustainability and environmental water flows have been in crisis for decades within the Basin and no solution is in sight.

Here is a snapshot of the latest information........

ABC News, 7 July 2019:

Australian taxpayers have given a huge corporation more than $40 million, enabling it to expand irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin under an environmental scheme that has been labelled a national disgrace.

Four Corners can reveal that more than $4 billion in Commonwealth funds has been handed over to irrigators, which has allowed them to expand their operations and use more water under the $5.6 billion water infrastructure scheme — the centrepiece of Australia's $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The scheme is intended to recover water for the rivers by giving farmers money to build water-saving infrastructure, in return for some of their water rights.

Some of the beneficiaries of the scheme are partly foreign-owned corporations that have used the money to transform vast tracts of land along the threatened river system, planting thirsty cotton and nut fields.

One of the biggest operators is Webster Limited, a publicly traded company that produces 90 per cent of Australia's walnuts and is 19.5 per cent owned by Canadian pension fund PSP.

Webster has received $41 million from the water infrastructure scheme to grow its empire in the Murrumbidgee Valley, in south-west New South Wales, where it has bought hundreds of square kilometres of land.

The funding covers more than half of an ambitious $78 million capital works program by Webster Limited to build dams to store more than 30 billion extra litres of water and irrigate an extra 81 square kilometres of land, developing much of it into prime, irrigated cotton country.

Maryanne Slattery, a former director at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, says it is horrifying that a scheme designed to help the environment is allowing irrigators to use more water.

"That program was supposed to reduce the amount of water that was going to irrigation, when it's actually increased the opportunities for irrigation … all subsidised by taxpayers," she said…...

Read full article here.

ABC Four Corners8 July 2019:

Taxpayer dollars, secretive deals and the lucrative business of water.

"It's a national scandal." Water economist

Two years on from the Four Corners investigation into water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin that sparked a royal commission, the program returns to the river system to investigate new concerns about how the plan to rescue it is being carried out.

"How extravagant is this scheme?... I'd just call it a rort." Lawyer

On Monday Four Corners investigates whether the contentious plan has become a colossal waste of taxpayers' money.

"The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a triple bottom line fail. It's a fail for communities, it's a fail for the economy and it's absolutely a fail for the environment." Business owner

The river system is the lifeblood of Australian agriculture but right now it's in crisis. It's experiencing one of the worst droughts on record, and with mass fish deaths capturing the headlines and farmers struggling to survive, many are saying the scheme is failing to deliver.

"I would characterise it as pink batts for farmers, or pink batts for earth movers. It all had to happen in a short space of time." Contractor

Billions of taxpayers' dollars are being poured into grants handed to irrigators in an attempt to save more water. Four Corners investigates exactly how the money is being spent.

"I'm a taxpayer. I don't agree with the scheme. I think it's actually too expensive." Farmer

Some irrigators say this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform their businesses.

"With a bold initiative, having the basin plan and the government investing in irrigated agriculture, you get an opportunity to basically reset... for the next 50 years." Irrigation CEO

Others question who is actually gaining the most from the generous scheme.

"We're degrading the rivers at the same time as we're handing out money to a few individuals to realise huge economic gains at public cost." Ecologist

For those with access to water, there are lucrative sales to be made. Water prices have hit record highs turning it into liquid gold.

"Anyone can come in and buy water. You don't even have to be a farmer...You're going to make money out of it, and that's what a lot of people are doing, unfortunately." Farmer

Others worry that the scheme is encouraging the planting of crops even thirstier than cotton, creating a potential time bomb.

"There's been an explosion in the production of nuts in the Murrumbidgee, and more broadly in the Murray-Darling Basin...This may well be a time bomb." Former water official

Four Corners investigates how the scheme is being regulated and whether water users and the authorities responsible are being properly held to account.

"We're talking about billions of dollars in taxpayers' money on a scheme that many, many capable and reliable scientists have said, this isn't going to work." Lawyer

Transcript of Four Corners 8 July 2019 episode Cash Splash is here.

Abc.net.au, 9 July 2019:

Two years on from Pumped, the Four Corners investigation into water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin that sparked a royal commission, Monday night’s report Cash Splash investigated new concerns about how the plan to rescue the fragile and vitally important river system is being carried out, probing the infrastructure grants scheme which is now the centrepiece of the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The investigation revealed tens of millions of dollars intended to restore the Murray-Darling Basin is helping big businesses expand irrigation and access huge volumes of water that would have flowed into communities and habitats downstream.

The aim of the story was to speak with people who have first-hand evidence of how the grants scheme is operating. It drew on a wide cross-section of the community affected by the scheme, including farmers and irrigators who have received the funding or been involved in its expenditure, scientists and economists who have gathered and analysed data on its effects, community leaders, former government officials and current and former Murrumbidgee Irrigation staff.

The interviewees on the program were:

Julie and Glen Andreazza, NSW Farmers of the Year
Brett Jones, CEO, Murrumbidgee Irrigation
Anthony Kidman, former Murrumbidgee Irrigation Project Manager
David Papps, former Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder
Professor Richard Kingsford, Ecologist, UNSW
Richard Beasley SC, Former Senior Counsel Assisting the SA Royal Commission into the MDBP
Prof Sarah Wheeler, Water Economist, University of Adelaide
John Kerrigan, Earthmover and now irrigator and recipient of infrastructure grants
Maryanne Slattery, former Director of Environmental Water at the MDBA and now senior Water Researcher, Australia Institute
Kelvin and Glen Baxter, farmers
Prof Quentin Grafton, UNESCO Chair in Water Economics, ANU
Paul Pierotti, Vice President of the Griffith Business Chamber
Tony Onley, Business Development Coordinator, Murrumbidgee Irrigation
Emma Carmody, Senior Solicitor, Environmental Defender’s Office
Matthew Ireson, Grazier

Four Corners requested an interview with Environment Minister Sussan Ley, who is responsible for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office and is the Member for Farrer, which includes the Murrumbidgee Valley where the story was filmed.


Minister Ley declined to be interviewed and her spokesperson told Four Corners no-one from the government would comment for the story.