Showing posts with label water wars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label water wars. Show all posts

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Good grief! Its 2002 meets 2007 in the Northern Rivers region during 2019


Clarence Valley Independent, letter to the Editor,11 September 2019:

Ed,
Good grief! Its 2002 meets 2007 in the Northern Rivers region right now.
This month we learned that there was an approx. 40 degree Celsius sudden warming in the upper atmosphere over Antarctica which will extend the current eastern Australia drought into the foreseeable future. With the Bureau of Meteorology stating that the last time a similar event occurred was in 2002 when the country experienced one of its driest years on record.
Readers might recall that 2002 was smack bang in the middle of the millennium drought. A drought which at one point saw the Orara River cease to run and at another, the Nymboida Weir unable to do more than supply two weeks of drinking water for the Clarence Valley before the pumps would no longer be able to draw any water up at all.
Last month we discovered that wannabee water raiders from the Murray-Darling Basin were back with another bid to divert water from the Clarence River system so that they could get a larger, less expensive dam built to order and, these four local councils – one in NSW and three in Queensland – can then undertake the intended expansion of their their urban and industry footprints.
Just as in 2007 they come at a time when the Clarence Valley is in drought and water flow in the upper reaches of the Clarence River is low, demanding we supply irrigation and drinking water – this time for an additional est. 236,984 people.
And just as in 2007 the media reports that at least one of the councils has already been talking with the federal Minister for Water Resources about their cross-border water diversion scheme and is pursuing a meeting in Canberra [The Chronicle, 3 September 2019, p.5 ].
The only difference between 2002, 2007 and 2019 is that the Clarence Valley acted on the lessons learnt between 1996 and 2010. Something Tenterfield, Toowoomba, Southern Downs and Western Downs failed to do.
Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour City expanded their original water sharing arrangement by building the Shannon Creek Dam to future proof as much as is possible the water supply for a est. combined total population of 128,198 people.
Now these four Murray-Darling Basin councils want the Clarence River system to supply water for a new total combined population of 365,182 people.
I wonder if now is the time to remind those politicians who may be thinking of supporting this push to build a 20,000 to 30,000 megalitre dam and pipeline that, the last time an attempt was made to grab Clarence water willy nilly, Clarence Valley communities helped bring down a federal government.
Judith M. Melville, Yamba

Friday, 13 September 2019

Water raiders want Clarence Valley communities to be "grown-up" and just let them go ahead and degrade the upper Clarence River water flow


This was Toowooba Regional Council in 2018 and the Clarence Valley's response.......

The Daily Examiner, 24 April 2018

This is Toowoomba Regional Council in 2019......

The Chronicle, 10 September 2019:

TOOWOOMBA Mayor Paul Antonio has called on his New South Wales colleagues to be part of a “grown-up discussion” over long-term water strategies, including a pipeline from the Clarence River.
Cr Antonio’s comments come amid a push-back from the Grafton community over discussions to connect the bountiful Clarence system to struggling areas in the Southern and Western Downs to combat the effects of drought.
Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons said last week he was adamant no headwaters would be leaving the system in the near future, even as the multi-council water allocation plan collects speed.
But Cr Antonio said it was important that all options were explored to ensure the east coast of Australia was well-supplied.
“I think we’ve got to be grown up and have a discussion around that,” he said.
“The Maryland river system has a 21,000ML yield, would take a fraction of water from the Clarence, but make a profound difference.
“We need the state governments in Queensland and New South Wales to facilitate a conversation around water strategies, and I’m having some robust discussions with the mayor of Tenterfield (Peter Petty) at the moment about it.”
The council endorsed a motion early last year to investigate a pipeline from the Clarence River, and the Southern Downs Regional Council made a similar commitment late last week.
Cr Antonio said continuous consultations over water would become the reality for councils and state governments in the near future.
“Water is the new currency, water is the limiting factor in population growth and food production in this area and many other areas,” he said.
“Now is the time to reflect on where we are and put strategies in place and it will lift this nation and make it more productive.”

Clarence Valley Independent, 4 September 2019:

In a video on SDRC’s Facebook site, the [Southern Downs Regional Council] mayor says “we have letters of support from Toowoomba regional Council and Paul Antonio, mayor of Toowoomba, [who is] also the chair of the Darling Downs South West Queensland Council of Mayors”.
Mr Antonio said in his letter: “As chair of Darling Downs South West Queensland Council of Mayors … I write to give the strongest of support to your council’s submission to the Australian Infrastructure Audit regarding long-term water security on the Darling Downs and NSW Border Ranges.”
Mr Antonio referred to a “crisis meeting” held among each of the councils on May 16.
“It was agreed we will work together to spread resources through planning to interconnect our [water] supplies….” he writes.
“New sources of water can include diversion from the headwaters of the Clarence River basin, via the Maryland River, and access to recycled water from Brisbane.
“Both these options require major investment well beyond the means of the councils involved.
“They also will take a merging of political wills across all three levels of government.
“Nothing short of a visionary, nation-building initiative led by the Commonwealth will solve the problem.
This is a Clarence Valley resident's response in 2019.....

The Mayor of Toowoomba, Paul Antonio, claims to want "grown-up discussions" concerning a proposal to dam and divert Clarence River system water across the border into southern Queensland.

Yet strangely he has not been adult enough himself to notify Clarence Valley Council of this proposal or enter into dialogue with this council which represents the majority of people and communities living along the length of this NSW river system.

What Cr. Antonio also forgets or just chooses to ignore when touting his "nation building initiative" is that there in a legislated, carefully considered water sharing plan already in place - the Water Sharing Plan for the Clarence River Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2016.

This plan covers the Maryland River and specifies the limits to granting water access licences, as well as limits to the maximum amount of water which can be drawn off this river which is set out as 995 ML/yr.

It also specifies when extraction should cease due to low flows; "Water must not be taken when the height of the water in Maryland River passing through the culvert pipes over the Rivertree Road near the southern boundary of portion 33, Parish of Reid, County of Buller, is less than or equal to 50 mm."

The plan defines the constraints on harvestable water rights as those set out in Water Management Act 2000 - Sect 53 & 54. This state act blocks supplying "any other land" with water that has been captured by landholders on the Maryland River.

Additionally, the plan limits the water extraction licence pool to an upper limit of 990 share components.

This water sharing plan was not something that was created without "grown-up discussions". Because NSW stakeholders recognized that our rivers are markedly variable and there is significant competition for water (especially in dry times). So there had to be an evidence-based balance between the needs of users and the need for a sustainable environmental flow in this particular Clarence River tributary.

Because without a genuine environmental flow entering the Clarence River at the confluence of the Maryland and Clarence Rivers, the upper Clarence River would overtime become a degraded waterway.

Cr. Antonio is talking of building an in-river dam and, as the proposed amount of water to be held back from entering the Clarence River under this water raiding scheme is actually 55.5% of the average annual flow of the Maryland River and an est. 57% of its unallocated annual flow, it is hard to see how environmental flows below this proposed dam wall can be reliably met.

Especially given there are existing landholder water entitlements in the Rivertree region on which local farmers depend as they come to grips with changing rainfall patterns.

This Queensland local government councillor is yet to demonstrate that he has any understanding of the interconnective nature of hydrological processes at work along the more than 380 km length of the Clarence River from its headwaters to coastal estuary mouth.

Cr. Antonio appears to see the Clarence River system in terms of the potential for economic growth in his own region -  failing to see the very real aesthetic, cultural, social, environmental and economic values it holds for the people of the Clarence Valley.

He does not take into consideration that the Clarence River system already supplies the water needs of 128,198 residents in the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour City local government areas and, that this river underpins two regional economies which together were worth an estimated $5.58 billion in 2018. [See Clarence Valley Council Economic Profile and Coffs Harbour City Council Economic Profile]

One might suspect that Cr. Antonio (who will presumably be seeking re-election in a little over five months) views this water diversion proposal solely through the narrow lens of his own political and personal financial ambitions.

Background

2. ABC News, 7 December 2018:

A southern Queensland Mayor has been fined nearly $15,000 after he was found to have engaged in misconduct in his dealings with the Melbourne-to-Brisbane Inland Railway project.
In an interview with the ABC in 2017, Councillor Paul Antonio, who owns a gravel quarry near Millmerran on the route chosen by the Federal Government, conceded he stood to benefit from the inland rail project.
The ABC revealed, Cr Antonio personally paid $4,900 to have an alternate route for the project investigated, which took the line to the very edge of his quarry.
Cr Antonio told the ABC he paid for the map to find an alternative that did not go through prime agricultural land in Millmerran, to help affected farmers.
After initially telling the ABC he gave the map only to one Millmerran farmer, he later conceded he provided the map to former industry minister Ian MacFarlane, who is now the chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, and the Federal Member for Groom, John McVeigh.
The matter was referred to the Local Government Regional Conduct Review Panel in April 2018 after a complaint was made by a fellow councillor and a member of the public.
The panel decided the complaint of misconduct was sustained.....
Cr Antonio was fined $14.360.50, ordered to undergo counselling, make an admission of error, and apologise at the next council meeting.
The panel also recommended the Local Government Department's chief executive officer monitor Cr Antonio for compliance with the Local Government Act.....

Monday, 9 September 2019

Let’s keep Queensland water raiders proposed Kia Ora Dam and pipeline a figment of their fevered imagination


If ever their was an example of a shared delusional disorder it is the belief that the Clarence River system has spare capacity to sustainably water share with the Murray-Darling Basin......

The Chronicle, 4 September 2019, p.16, excerpt: 


Southern Downs: The Southern Downs Regional Council has endorsed and will submit to Infrastructure Australia a list of five key infrastructure projects which support the future infrastructure challenges and opportunities facing the Southern Downs. 

The council resolved at the August general meeting to submit the following projects for consideration: 

Pipeline diversion of water from the Clarence River in NSW to Tenterfield, Southern Downs, Western Downs and Toowoomba...... [my yellow highlighting]


The Chronicle, 3 September 2019, p.5, excerpt: 

It comes as the council [Toowoomba Regional Council] starts confidential discussions around long-term water strategies, which could include new pipelines from northern New South Wales or even a new dam within the region. 

Water and waste chair Cr Nancy Sommerfield said she had been in constant discussions with Water Resources Minister David Littleproud about a new pipeline from the Clarence River in NSW. 

“The Clarence River is something I’m looking to talk about – there’s been a lot of work done on that, and I’m going to Canberra to speak with the minister soon,” she said. 

“I really do like the idea of getting water from the Clarence, because it also solves issues for the Southern Downs.”  [my yellow highlighting]


The Daily Examiner, letter to the editor, 4 September 2019:
Let’s keep Kia Ora Dam a figment of imagination
It comes as no surprise that all four councils currently calling for the damming and diversion of water from the Clarence River system at Maryland River are themselves part of the Murray-Darling Basin group of councils.
It also comes as no surprise that three of these councils are in southern Queensland.
Just like Clarence Valley Council and its predecessors, these four councils have known for decades that they faced a future where diminishing regional water resources and increasing demand would make reliable water supply an issue for local governments.

However, unlike Clarence Valley Council and its local communities, these councils did not attempt to future proof their water supplies until it became a matter of urgency for their own communities.

One could almost feel sorry for them until one realises that at least one of the Queensland councils has started to explore new dam and pipeline options in its own backyard.
So why this push to dam and divert water from the Clarence River system? Well, it seems the best option in the Southern Downs region is considered way too expensive by the council there.
One has to suspect that some bright spark on this council decided that if all three Queensland councils joined forces and included a NSW council for good measure they could get Commonwealth and NSW state funding for a dam twice the size with minimum cost to their own coffers.
In 2017 Southern Downs Regional Council even published the name of this proposed 20,000-30,000 megalitre dam to be sited in the Upper Clarence catchment – it’s called the “Kia Ora” dam.
To date these wannabee water raiders have apparently not even undertaken an up-to-date desktop study on the feasibility of this dam and pipeline proposal.
Yet still they call for a dam which has the potential to reduce the Maryland River below the dam wall to a trickle even after it recovers from the present drought, and the potential to place the Upper Clarence water supply and environmental water flows at greater risk.
It is interesting to note the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Emu Swamp Dam in southern Queensland mentions previous consideration of “Kia Ora” by Sinclair Knight Merz:
“The Kia Ora dam site on the Maryland River in NSW has been investigated (SKM 1997b, 2007c) but it is not considered to be a viable option. A preliminary analysis suggests that, at full development, the site might be able to provide the required water supplies.
However, more detailed yield assessments for other dam sites in the area have shown that these preliminary assessments have all over-estimated the available yield. It is likely that further work would demonstrate that even the indicated yield is not available.
This site also carries risks arising from the reliability of information that was available to be used in the assessment; the unknown foundations; the high dam wall; the unknown side-spillway foundations; cross-border water transfers and delays and costs arising from the inability of the SSC to use its legislated powers (eg for compulsory land acquisition) in NSW.”
It seems these four councils are not facing the reality of their situation as well as failing to recognise that the Clarence Valley already shares water with a much larger regional population to the south of its own borders and cannot safely increase its water sharing arrangements.
Judith M Melville,Yamba
The Daily Examiner, 3 September 2019, p.11: 


OUR SAY 
BILL NORTH Editor 

For communities such as Tenterfield Shire, whose very survival is quite possibly on the brink without a long-term water plan, tapping into nearby available resources could be what is required to keep crops in the ground and families from moving away. 

The difference between life and death. For the Toowoomba, Western Downs and Southern Downs councils in the northeastern pocket of the failing Murray-Darling Basin, growing populations coupled with water scarcity is a worrying conundrum. 

The headwaters of the Condamine River, which forms part of Australia’s longest river system with the Murray and Darling rivers, rise on Mt Superbus east of Warwick. Less than 50km away as the crow flies is the proposed Maryland Dam site on the Clarence River earmarked by the mayors of those four council areas as top priority in a list of projects to be presented to Infrastructure Australia. 

But as one reader exclaimed when they told me they saw the plans on Southern Downs Regional Council’s Facebook page yesterday morning: “You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s like going to the bank and saying ‘We’re going to rob your bank, watch out’.” 

Any plan to divert water from one system to another leaves a deficit – environmental and economic – where it came from in the first place. 

The Daily Examiner, letter to the editor, 3 September 2019, p.11, excerpt: 

Pipe Dream 

 I have just read this article with great concern and I hope Mayor Simmons and CVC are not waiting for these other councils to get in touch with them before they do something about their proposal to divert our precious Clarence River. 

No offence, but I think this decision is above your tier of government, so I would strongly advise that you take a more proactive stance on this issue. 

We have seen already the damage done by misguided water allocations in the past, (think Murray-Darling as an obvious example), probably half the reason these electorates are running out of water. 

 As I’m sure you are aware, we are in the midst of a severe drought, so this apparently small percentage of fresh water that we take out of the Clarence catchment would in real terms be most of the water currently going in, leaving very little to actually continue on to the sea. What a lot of people fail to realise is the Clarence is tidal to above Grafton. 

This excess fresh water, that we apparently have, mixes with salt water from the Pacific Ocean to form what is known as brackish water and is responsible for its own, very diverse, lifeforms. Ribbon grass, other plants, fish and a great deal of other lifeforms rely on this brackish water. It also carries sediment and nutrients vital to the bottom end of the river and the ocean to sustain life the whole way down.......

As a 55-year-old, third-generation born and bred Clarence Valley local, a surfer, fisherman and son of a professional fisherman, I have had a great love and association with the Clarence and the ocean and would hate to see it destroyed by narrow-minded bureaucrats. 

It would be nice to think it will continue in its present form for my children and theirs. 

Leigh Johnson, Tullymorgan

Friday, 30 August 2019

NSW irrigators still have their heads buried deep in the sand of dry river beds


Ahead of the NSW Local Government Annual Conference to be held from 14-16 October 2019 irrigators' demands are becoming evermore unrealistic in the face of growing surface water shortages due to drought and climate change.

And once again damming and diverting water from the Clarence River system is mentioned.

One has to wonder if the irrigators in the article below realise that, at the point where all the main river tributaries have contributed to the Clarence River flow, water height was only 0.89 metres or slightly less than 3 feet on 28 August 2019, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology which publishes recorded river heights for NSW Northern Rivers.

Water NSW graphs

Further upriver at Tabulum water height was recorded as only -0.04 metres.

The wide full river that these irrigators see on the Internet only runs from Grafton to the sea (approx. 52 kms as the crow flies) and all that way it is saline because the lower river is tidal and that additional undrinkable water volume comes from the ocean.

The Irrigator, Leeton NSW, 27 August 2019, p.5: 

Community leaders agreed to work together to "claw back" water from the NSW government at a Build More Dams meeting recently. 

The meeting attendees agreed to lobby the state government to return "voluntary contributions" of water, which have been siphoned from MIA irrigators since 2002. 

Irrigators had been giving up five per cent of their high security allocations and 15 per cent of their general security allocations, which translates to billions of dollars worth of water - and magnitudes more in today's water prices. Griffith City Council and Leeton Shire Council's mayors also agreed to support the lobbying efforts and urge other councils within the Murray Darling Association to join suit. 

Leeton's mayor Paul Maytom was present at the meeting. 

The committee also agreed to lobby the state government for a feasibility study into the Clarence River diversion scheme that was suggested by engineer David Coffey. 

The scheme would capture Clarence River water in dams and pump it into the Murray Darling system. 

The third and final motion agreed upon by the committee was to take an official stance and throw their support behind a royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. 

The committee will be joining the ranks of the NSW Farmers Griffith branch, which has also recently thrown their support behind a royal commission.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Queensland water raiders turn their eyes to the Clarence River once more


Calls to dam and divert water from the Clarence River system resurfaced last year.

ABC News, 25 April 2018:

It is an idea that just keeps bubbling to the surface — pumping water inland from the Clarence River in northern New South Wales. 

The latest group to float the proposal is the Toowoomba Regional Council in south-east Queensland. Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio said it would be in the national interest to seriously investigate the plan. 

"I think the Clarence has a fair bit of water in it," Councillor Antonio said. 

"I think a very, very small percentage of the Clarence water would make an immense difference to the parched, dry areas of the Darling Downs. 

"One of the things we have on the Darling Downs, I think we've got some of the best soils that you would find anywhere. 

"As a farmer from this particular region, I think they're the best soils that are available for agriculture in Australia. 

"What they lack is reliable water," he said. A similar idea was successfully put forward by the Griffith City Council, in the New South Wales Riverina, at last year's National General Assembly of Councils.

It called for federal funding of a feasibility study to explore the practicalities of diverting water inland from the Clarence River. 

But Page MP Kevin Hogan, whose federal electorate takes in much of the Clarence Valley, said he would never support the proposal. 

"There's water piped all over the country and there are pipelines that go for hundreds of kilometres, but I don't think for cost or for environmental reasons it's feasible," he said. 

"I have heard many proposals over many decades about this. 

"I think for people out west it will never end. 

"I think they will always flag this idea, but they've been flagging it for multiple decades. 

"It hasn't happened and I don't believe it ever will. 

"There's always if there's a will there's a way, but I don't believe there's a will for that to happen in Canberra. 

Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons said there was no support for the move at a local level either. 

"I can't see the current councillors supporting the diversion of water to Toowoomba or anywhere else from the Clarence River," he said. 

"It's a natural resource for the Clarence Valley, fishermen depend on it, farmers depend on it.".....

Then the wannabee raiders began again this year.

Southern Free Times, Warwick, 16 May 2019: 

Mayor Tracy Dobie addressed the media today, Thursday 16 May, during a meeting in Warwick with Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio, Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh and representatives of Tenterfield Shire. 

The meeting of mayors was to discuss future water supply security for the Darling Downs and Tenterfield regions, including a plan to pipe water from the Clarence River system in New South Wales which has been talked about for decades.

The Daily Examiner, 19 August 2019, p.1: 

With water supplies dwindling across Tenterfield, Toowoomba, and the Southern and Western Downs, councils across southeast Queensland and western NSW have blown dust off their plans to dam the Clarence River. 
However, Clarence Valley Council Mayor Jim Simmons has said they had not been involved in any of these discussions. 

At a Southern Downs Regional Council Q&A session last week, the Mayor Tracy Dobie said her council was looking into securing a diversion of the Clarence River in the upper catchment. 

Cr Dobie said the four councils of Tenterfield, Toowoomba, Western Downs and Southern Downs were working together on the proposal to receive an allocation of the river. 

“If you look at Toowoomba, they’re going to run out of water in 30 years, they need supplementary water, that’s why we’re looking at the diversion of the Clarence, where only seven per cent of that water is allocated at the moment,” Cr Dobie said. 

While this idea has been raised since the 1980s, Cr Simmons said Clarence Valley Council had not been involved in any discussions to dam the Clarence River. 

“These councils have not involved Clarence Valley Council in any discussions, and we’ve had no input into these discussions,” 

Cr Simmons said. “If they’re looking at it seriously, they need to seriously get the people that it affects involved in their discussions and we’ve not been approached to date, and the Clarence Valley would very much be affected by it. 

“The message we’ve got in the past is that people are opposed to any proposal to dam or divert the Clarence River, it’s a pretty big subject so I would like to see some more details if this is something these councils are seriously looking at.” 

In May this year, the Warwick Daily News reported Cr Dobie joined Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio, Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh and Tenterfield Shire councillor Gary Verri in Warwick to discuss a plan to secure an allocation from the Clarence River. 

Cr Dobie said a pipeline would be used to move the water to Queensland using gravity. “If you look at the Clarence there’s only a small percentage that is allocated out for urban and industrial use and the rest goes out to sea,” she said. 

Water security in southeast Queensland is a major issue, with many councils enforcing severe water restrictions.

The Daily Examiner, 20 August 2019, p.11: 

OUR SAY 
TIM HOWARD 
Chief of staff  

Calls to redirect Clarence River water inland to save drought-stricken farmers is another example of emotion trumping logic. 

Plans to divert coastal river water inland have been around at least since 1938, when Dr John Bradfield came up with a scheme to drought-proof western Queensland and South Australia by sending the waters of the Tully, Herbert and Burdekin rivers inland. 

The benefits were enormous. Massive areas in Queensland could be farmed under irrigation, it could produce massive amounts of hydro-electricity and cut erosion problems in central Queensland.

It would create beneficial change in central Australia as the cooling effects of a permanently filled Lake Eyre brought higher rainfall and vegetation growth. 

Except none of this would happen because just about everything in the planning was wrong. 

Bradfield’s estimate of the amount of water needed was more twice what the rivers could supply, the evaporation rate was likely to exceed water flows. 

Most damning was the damage the loss of the water would cause to the existing eco-systems, including the Great Barrier Reef. 

The mighty Clarence produces nothing like the flows of those tropical northern rivers. It shows there are many simple answers to complex problems and they’re invariably wrong.

Is it any wonder that local communities are against damming and diverting water from the Clarence River system?

Partly by happy historical accident and partly by good management strategies, the Clarence River system is relatively healthy and its water a sustainable resource for the est. 128,196-strong combined population in the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour City local government areas, along with businesses in the 19 industry sectors identified as supplying employment across the two regional economies with a combined worth of est. $5.58 billion in a wider Northern Rivers regional economy worth in excess of $15.64 billion annually.

Clarence Valley communities have a right to feel that they have already done their bit for state water sustainability by supplying water to the Coffs Habour region which is outside the Clarence River catchment area.


The Valley does this in times of high rainfall and in times of drought, such as now  in late August 2019 when roughly half the Clarence Valley land area is officially listed as "Drought Affected" and the other half listed as a mixture "Drought" and "Severe Drought".

Any further water diversion has the potential to place Clarence River water sustainability and water quality at risk, thereby affecting the aesthetic, environmental, cultural, social and economic amenity of local urban and rural communities.

It should also be noted that Native Title exists over the lower Clarence River and estuary and it seems the wannabe water raiders, besides not consulting Clarence Valley Council, haven't thought to approach the traditional owners either. 


Thursday, 16 May 2019

First global assessment of the ecological health of the world's "wild" rivers has found only about one third of the longest rivers are still free-flowing


As the Queensland flood waters finally make it down the Dimantina and Georgina rivers and Cooper's Creek and spread out over the Eyre Basin and into Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, it is well to remember three things.

The first is that; The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the largest and most pristine desert river systems on the planet, supporting 60,000 people and a wealth of wildlife.

The second is the fact that the Morrison Government has a stated policy to dam and divert more water from Australia's river systems if it is re-elected. 

The third is that water sustainability into the future is dependent on wild rivers running free.

ABC Radio,“RN”, 9 May 2019:

The first global assessment of the ecological health of the world's "wild" rivers has found only about one third of the longest rivers are still free-flowing.

The report warns the disruption is harming ecosystems, with 3,700 new large dams either under construction, or planned.


Nature, 8 May 2019:

Gill,Gunter et al, (2019) Mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers

ABSTRACT

Free-flowing rivers (FFRs) support diverse, complex and dynamic ecosystems globally, providing important societal and economic services. Infrastructure development threatens the ecosystem processes, biodiversity and services that these rivers support. Here we assess the connectivity status of 12 million kilometres of rivers globally and identify those that remain free-flowing in their entire length. Only 37 per cent of rivers longer than 1,000 kilometres remain free-flowing over their entire length and 23 per cent flow uninterrupted to the ocean. Very long FFRs are largely restricted to remote regions of the Arctic and of the Amazon and Congo basins. In densely populated areas only few very long rivers remain free-flowing, such as the Irrawaddy and Salween. Dams and reservoirs and their up- and downstream propagation of fragmentation and flow regulation are the leading contributors to the loss of river connectivity. By applying a new method to quantify riverine connectivity and map FFRs, we provide a foundation for concerted global and national strategies to maintain or restore them.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

The Trouble with Water: National Party conflicts of interest and the rising odour of corruption



The Saturday Paper, 27 April 2019:

Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty is examining links between political donations and the issuing and buyback of agricultural water licences, amid concerns that undeclared conflicts of interest could be fuelling corruption.

Keelty told The Saturday Paper this week he is concerned about the extent of undeclared conflicts of interest among politicians, lobby groups and businesses operating in the water market.

“I’m interested to see how conflicted politicians are declaring their conflicts of interest when decisions are made about water policy,” he said.

“Where you get those conflicts of interest and they’re not addressed, that’s ripe for corruption.”

His comments come as the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder confirmed to The Saturday Paper that two contentious water licences for which the federal government paid $79 million have returned next to no water to the environment since they were purchased two years ago.

Keelty is conducting inquiries in his capacity as the Northern Basin commissioner for the Murray–Darling Basin, a position to which the federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, appointed him in August last year with the support of the Labor opposition.

On the issue of water licences, he draws a direct comparison with the management of development applications by local government, where conflicts of interest are required to be declared.

“We’re not seeing it in water, and it should be there,” he said.

Keelty, who was also the inaugural chair of the Australian Crime Commission, is not categorical about what exposing such conflicts might reveal, though he suggests they are widespread.

“I’m not saying it’s corruption; I’m saying it’s conflict of interest,” he said. “But you could draw a conclusion that if conflicts of interest aren’t transparent, it could lead to corruption … Water is now the value of gold. If you have corruption in other elements of society, if you have corruption in other areas of business, why wouldn’t you have it here, when water is the same price as gold?”

“IT IS NOT AS TRANSPARENT AS I FIRST THOUGHT AND IT IS MUDDIED BY IN-KIND DONATIONS AND THIRD-PARTY COMPANIES OR ENTITIES THAT ARE CREATED TO OBSCURE WHO THE REAL DONORS ARE.”

Over the past decade, Keelty has undertaken inquiries and investigations for various governments on issues relating to integrity in government policy, especially in emergency management.

Now turning his attention to the struggling river system, he is aiming to improve transparency in the management of the northern Murray–Darling Basin, which has a far worse compliance record than the river system’s southern half.

His task is to ensure that water gets back to the river system where it is needed and that those who rely on this water, and should have rights for its use, are not being ripped off, especially disenfranchised Indigenous communities and others living downstream.

Keelty argues that excessive numbers of water licences have been issued – sometimes on questionable grounds – and are seriously damaging the river.

“When you look at it strategically, there are too many licences having been allocated for the amount of water that is available,” he told The Saturday Paper.

“Nobody is addressing that, that I can see.”

Keelty also believes the system is too dependent on property owners acting within the law and reporting their own activities.

“The system relies on honesty and integrity but if you look at the number of prosecutions and infringement notices issued in New South Wales in the last 12 months, the pillar of honesty doesn’t appear to be that strong,” he said.

“I can understand the suspicion and the frustration in the southern basin states because they are directly impacted by the efficiency of the systems in the northern basin.”

Keelty is currently examining the Australian Electoral Commission records of political donations, checking links between donors, decision-makers and recipients of water licences or sales contracts.

“Clearly the National Party is probably, I guess, a glaring example of where politicians could be conflicted because their constituency are the very people who are using the water and the very people who are lobbying about water policy,” he said.

But he is examining links to other parties as well. “It’s not just the National Party. Different governments will make decisions about water policy that presumably benefit their state and their constituents.”

Keelty has concerns about the system of political donations more broadly.

“It is not as transparent as I first thought and it is muddied by in-kind donations and third-party companies or entities that are created to obscure who the real donors are,” he said. “I’ve found it more difficult and less transparent than what most of us probably think it is.”

The former police chief is also arguing for proceeds-of-crime legislation to be more clearly linked to offences in the water market because he believes the risk of losing a farming property would be a significant deterrent.

“Where you can prosecute criminal charges for offending, it makes sense to have parallel action in proceeds of crime because that will have more of an impact than perhaps some of the civil charges that are being used to remedy the situation to date,” he said.

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