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

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

National Audit Office has criticised the federal government’s poor processes in Murray-Darling water buybacks


The Australian, 17 July 2020:

The National Audit Office has criticised the federal government’s Murray-Darling water buybacks, saying the Department of Agriculture “did not ­develop a framework designed to maximise value for money”. 


In an audit of the department’s water procurement practices, the ANAO found that there was “limited evidence of app­ropriate assessment” to justify the price paid by the federal government to private owners for water to be set aside for environmental purposes. 

Additionally, “the department did not negotiate the price for the water entitlements it purchased in all but one instance”, the audit report found. 

The audit office looked at water purchases worth a total of $190m across nine catchment areas between 2016 and 2019. 

Water for the environment is used to improve the health of ­rivers, wetlands and flood plains. ANU Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy director Quentin Grafton said the “most damning indictment” from the ANAO report was the finding that the government, as a result of poor processes, paid too much for the water. 

“Taxpayers’ money has been wasted,” Professor Grafton said. 

The ANAO said that “probity management arrangements were different to those applied to open tenders, and conflict of interest declarations were not clearly documented”. 

Professor Grafton blamed the lack of value for money on the government’s decision to run the buybacks on a limited tender basis, despite the fact it “already had an open tender process that had been working highly effectively for a number of years”. 

The report noted that the ­government had spent $21.5m on ­purchasing water rights from the Warrego River in southwest Queensland and the Lowbidgee flood plain in the Murrum­bidgee wetlands, despite the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office having assessed the water as being of questionable en­vironmental benefit, or as being unreliable.....

Looking back at Scott Morrison in 2019:

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

NSW farmers against gas fields on agricultural land or in vicinity of rivers, lakes and underground water



The Daily Telegraph, 21 June 2020:

Local farmers are spoiling for a fight with the State government over plans to dig hundreds of gas wells across NSW’s most fertile countryside.

A proposed $3 billion project to drill 850 coal seam gas wells between Narrabri and Gunnedah would be a “climate crisis” according to farmers in north west NSW, who hold grave fears for the future of livestock, cropping and human drinking water.

The NSW Department of Planning last week approved the proposal after a drawn out three-year process, which means the final hurdle is sign-off from the Independent Planning Commission.

A NSW Farmers branch representing hundreds of farmers across the Liverpool Plains voted unanimously to call on its peak industry body to up the ante in its opposition to the coal seam gas project.

The Gunnedah and Tambar Springs branch of NSW Farmers has formally requested its parent body lobby the government to scrap the Narrabri coal seam gas project and extinguish 11 expired and inactive petroleum exploration licences dotted around the region.


Santos Narrabri Gas project has raised alarm among farmers over the future of livestock, cropping and human drinking water in the area. Picture: Nathan Edwards.

Santos has claimed the project won't compromise the Great Artesian Basin – the world’s largest underground freshwater tank, big enough to fill Sydney Harbour 130,000 times – but farmers maintain there is too high a risk it could deplete and irreparably contaminate the aquifer.

"What my members are saying is they can produce food and fibre without gas, but they can’t do it without water,” branch secretary and wheat farmer Xavier Martin said.

The Berejiklian government is not listening so NSW Farmers has to escalate this.”

Farmers see the Narrabri project as a “Trojan horse”, which if approved will encourage gas miners to fire up 11 expired and largely inactive petroleum exploration licences in the state’s north west from the Upper Hunter and Liverpool Plains north to Moree and west to Coonamble.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Just a reminder that although the Australian Parliament is not regularly sitting during the COVID-19 pandemic, the drive to dismantle environmental protections continues apace


The Morrison Coalition Government, aided and abetted by the NSW Coalition Government and industry is pressing ahead with dismantling New South Wales environmental protections by omission & commission.

Here are just five examples.....

The Oops, my bad! Defence

The Age, 10 May 2020:

One of NSW's major thermal coal miners has admitted it submitted inaccurate figures on the carbon emissions impact of its fuel in an environmental declaration to the state government.

Centennial Coal stated in its submission for an extension of its Angus Place coal mine near Lithgow that burning its coal would produce 80 kilograms of carbon dioxide per tonne. Similar mines – including two of its own – actually cause 30 times more emissions, or 2.4 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of coal.

"Absolutely, we stuffed up," Katie Brassil, the company's spokeswoman said. "Our consultants got it wrong and so we got it wrong."

The assessment of emissions resulting from burning fossil fuels has become a sensitive one in NSW after approvals for two projects were rejected because of the impact of so-called Scope 3 or downstream emissions resulting from burning the product……

Don’t Look Here, Look Over There!

Channel 9 News, 9 May 2020:

A controversial plan for a US company to mine coal beneath a Sydney drinking water dam has been approved by the New South Wales state government while focus was on COVID-19.

Woronora reservoir, an hour's drive south of the CBD, is part of a system which supplies water to more than 3.4 million people in Greater Sydney.

The approval will allow Peabody Energy to send long wall mining machines 450 metres below the earth's surface to crawl along coal seams directly below the dam.

Dr Kerryn Phelps says the fact the decision was made "under the cover of coronavirus" is "unfathomable".

NSW has spent 12 of the last 20 years in drought, with record low rainfall plunging much of the state into severe water shortage last year.

"We know about the potential for catastrophe," Dr Phelps told 9News.com.au.

"We just cannot let this [decision] go unchallenged."…..

Washing Their Hands Of The Problems They Caused


Experts warn the Morrison government is not using its legal powers to protect wildlife from devastating bushfires, which killed billions of animals in the summer.

Under international law the Commonwealth is responsible for maintaining the biodiversity of World Heritage Areas. Under federal law, it’s also responsible for protecting threatened species listed under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act. But experts say the Commonwealth is yet to fulfil its responsibilities.


A wombat in the charred remains of a Kangaroo Valley bushfire.CREDIT:WOLTER PEETERS

Environment minister Sussan Ley has argued states and territories have "primary" responsibility for wildlife. But environmental law expert, University of Tasmania professor Jan McDonald, said the environment minister is legally obliged to work with states to prevent bushfire damage to threatened species and World Heritage Areas.
A spokesman for Ms Ley said "other than Commonwealth-managed National Parks [such as Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta], natural disaster preparedness and response planning is led by states and territories as part of their role as the primary regulators of Australia’s plants and animals."….

Rigging The Books

The Guardian, 8 May 2020:

The federal government has stopped listing major threats to species under national environment laws, and plans to address listed threats are often years out of date or have not been done at all.

Environment department documents released under freedom of information laws show the government has stopped assessing what are known as “key threatening processes”, which are major threats to the survival of native wildlife.

Conservationists say it highlights the dysfunctional nature of Australia’s environmental framework, which makes aspects of wildlife protection optional for government.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act is being reviewed, a once-a-decade requirement under the legislation, and there are calls for greater accountability rules to be built into Australia’s environmental laws.

It follows longstanding criticism that the act is failing to curb extinction.

An unacceptable excuse’

In a series of reports since 2018, Guardian Australia has uncovered multiple failures including delays in listing threatened species and habitats, threatened species funding being used for projects that do not benefit species, critical habitat not being protected, and recovery actions for species not being adopted or implemented.

The act lists threats such as feral cats, land clearing and climate change as key threatening processes that push native plants and animals towards extinction.

Once a threat is listed, the environment minister decides whether a plan – known as a threat abatement plan – should be adopted to try to reduce the impact of the threat on native species.

But a 2019 briefing document shows the department has stopped recommending the government’s threatened species scientific committee assess new key threatening processes for potential listing.

Addressing threats to nature ... should not be treated as a luxury
Evan Quartermain”

Among its reasons given is that the department has limited resources to support the work.

The document says key threatening processes have “limited regulatory influence” – that they have little effect – and the department has limited capacity to support assessments of them. Because of this, the department did not recommend any of the key threatening processes put forward “as priorities for assessment”….

Quick, Before They Notice!

The Guardian, 23 April 2020:

The environment minister, Sussan Ley, has flagged the government may change Australia’s national environment laws before a review is finished later this year.

Ley said she would introduce “early pieces of legislation” to parliament if she could to “really get moving with reforming and revitalising one of our signature pieces of environmental legislation”.

It follows business groups and the government emphasising the need to cut red tape as part of the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, and comes as the businessman Graeme Samuel chairs an independent statutory review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. An interim report is due in June, followed by a final report in October.

When the review was announced, the government said it would be used to “tackle green tape” and speed up project approvals.

Environmental organisations have stressed the need for tougher environmental protections to stem Australia’s high rate of extinction. Australia has lost more than 50 animal and 60 plant species in the past 200 years and recorded the highest rate of mammalian extinction in the world over that period.

Ley said, with the interim report due by the middle of the year, she expected Samuel would “in the course of the review, identify a range of measures that we can take to prevent unnecessary delays and improve environmental standards”.

Where there are opportunities to make sensible changes ahead of the final EPBC review report, I will be prepared to do so,” she said.

On Thursday, Ley and the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said work was already under way to speed up environmental assessments of projects and that the number of on time “key decisions” in the EPBC process had improved from 19% in the December quarter to 87% in the March quarter…..

An environment department spokesman said key decisions covered three items in the assessment process: the decision on whether a project requires assessment under the act, the decision on what assessment method will be used, and the final decision on whether or not to approve the project.....

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

"Over my dead body": Nationals MP Hogan rejects Clarence River water diversion proposals


The Daily Examiner, 21 October 2019, p.3:


Page MP Kevin Hogan has weighed into the water debate, saying any diversion inland would be “over my dead body”.
With the long-debated issue of diversion has been gathering interest, the Nationals MP said he did not support any plans to put dams on the headwaters of the Clarence River system.
“Every study on a dam and diversion of waters from the Clarence River inland, has shown it to be economically and environmentally unfeasible,” Mr Hogan said.
“In fact, a diversion of water from the Clarence River inland would be over my dead body.”
Water shortages in northern NSW and southern Queensland have led a number of councils to call for an investigation into redirecting water from the Clarence as their dams come close to running empty.
Mr Hogan’s comments came as an increasing number of farmers call for long-term strategies to deal with the effects of drought and his National Party colleague Barnaby Joyce told those struggling to consider leaving the land.
Mr Joyce said those who had failed to make a profit in 10 years should consider their position after 200 farmers lost the $36,000 annual Farm Household Allowance.
While Mr Hogan would not be drawn on whether he agreed with the comments expressed by Mr Joyce, he said “we need to remain flexible” and pointed out how the Federal Government had been altering the allowance since its inception....
He said the changes to the allowance, introduced to Parliament last week, would help provide drought relief to those who had exhausted their four years on the FHA. “We have announced a lump sum payment as people roll off the Farm Household Allowance; $13,000 for couples and $7500 for singles,” he said. “The Bill will also make it easier for more farmers to access the payment by lifting the amount families can earn off-farm to $100,000 a year; and allow farmers to count income from agistment against their losses.”

A perfect example of the interconnection between river and groundwater in time of climate change and drought


In times of water scaricity in New South Wales, right after the call for dams and more dams, comes the call to sink more bores to supply additional water.

Here is a clear example of why sinking more bores is not the answer to either drought or climate change, as rivers and grounwater are an interconnected system in which no water is 'additional' water.

It is only the same water constanting re-looping from the clouds to the surface to the aquifer to the surface to the clouds and back round again.

When we deplete river and groundwater through overuse not all of the water taken from streams,  rivers and underground aquifers is recoverable by those natural processes which produce rainfall.

Water NSW, media release18 October 2019:

Restrictions imposed on Maules Creek groundwater use

The NSW government has issued a temporary restriction on groundwater usage in the Maules Creek Groundwater Water Source upstream of Elfin Crossing.
The Temporary Water Restriction has been issued under section 324 of the Water Management Act and means that holders of an Aquifer Access Licence must not take water under that licence from the Upper Namoi Zone 11 Maules Creek Groundwater Source, upstream of Elfin Crossing.
This restriction will be in place from 18 October 2019 to 30 June 2020.
The restriction does not apply to;
  • bores accessing groundwater under basic landholder rights, or
  • for the purposes of testing metering equipment.
Due to the severe drought conditions, there has been no river flows at the Maules Creek Avoca East Gauge since March 2018 and the groundwater observation bore levels near Elfin Crossing for 2019 have been the lowest on record.
These low groundwater levels have impacted the ability to access groundwater for stock, domestic and basic landholder rights.
A series of pools adjacent to Elfin Crossing that support local habitat and maintain the natural ecosystem are also being impacted. The continued depletion of these pools has also led to a deterioration of water quality in Maules Creek, which is currently not fit for human consumption.
This temporary restriction will help to maintain the perennial pool levels in Maules Creek and the groundwater levels in the Maules Creek Groundwater Water Source upstream of Elfin Crossing.
For more information on the temporary restriction visit the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment announcement. 

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Too little or no water in pivotal NSW state dams? Who do you blame?


So who should NSW voters blame for the fact that state dams were not prepared for the current severe drought? It appears the finger points straight to then NSW Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water & Nationals MP for Barwon Kevin Humphries.

Now in comfortable retirement he can no longer be held to account for the damage he did by aiding and abetting the irrigator lobby in 2014.

In this he was assisted by then NSW Minister for Primary Industries & Nationals MP for Burrinjuck Katrina Hodgkinson who has also retired from the NSW Parliament. 

The Guardian, excerpt, 15 October 2019: 

In New South Wales, where the current drought is centred, water is allocated to towns, irrigators and other users based on how much water is expected to flow into dams in the coming year. Prior to 2014, NSW allocated water based on calculations around the “worst drought on record” and ensuring that high security water licence holders would still have water during the driest years. 

The worst drought on record for NSW was the millennium drought..... Planning for such a long drought and holding sufficient water in the state’s dams was opposed by former NSW water minister, Kevin Humphries, who claimed: 

"[Water allocation calculations] currently require water to be set aside within a dam, to ensure full or near full allocations for high security licences can be maintained through the worst drought on record. This water-sharing rule was developed prior to the recent millennial drought. When the millennium drought is taken into account, implementation would result in significant quantities of water being taken out of production, and held in reserve just in case an equally severe drought occurs again." 

 Read that again if you have to. Keeping water in dams “just in case” of severe drought is not good for business. Water in dams is water that isn’t being used for irrigation. 

Humphries introduced legislation that removed the millennium drought from water allocation calculations, meaning more water came out of dams for irrigation which would otherwise be available for towns through the drought.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Morrison Government accidentally tells us more than it intended about its future plans for more dams?


Eighteen pages of 'talking points' compiled by the Prime Minister's Office were accidentally released to Australian journalists on Monday 14 October 2019.

These talking points predictably blame Labor in a look-over-there-not here manner, continue Scott Morrison's personal war on the poor and vulnerable and refuse to look climate change in the eye.

Interestingly for folks in the NSW Northern Rivers region, these points confirm federal government support for abandoning certain federal/state provisions contained in legislation covering water, environment and biodiversity when it comes to building new dams.

The document also lets the cat of the bag when it reveals a wider purpose behind building a Mole River dam in Tenterfield Shire.

Google Earth snapshot of a section of the Mole River, NSW


The current proposal according the PMO is for a 100,000 megalites dam (basically the size of Karangi Dam in Coffs Habour LGA) which Morrison & Co see as assisting not just Tenterfield Shire but also as potentially useful to southern Queensland (See P.4). Morrison expects this dam to be 'shovel ready' two years from now, in 2021.

Water NSW released an Upper Mole River Dam fact sheet at the same time those errant talking points escaped inot the wild. This has the proposed Mole River dam as between 100 and 200 gigalites (ie., between 100,000 to 200,000 megalitres) and costing est. $355 billion. However, Water NSW does not see this proposed dam being 'shovel ready' until 2024 with dam construction completed sometime between 2026 and 2028.

Morrison's 100,000 megalitre dam would be ample to supply the needs of a NSW shire whose total population is yet to reach 7,000 residents, but is perhaps not entirely adequate to cover the needs of local irrigators into a future which is rapidly heating up and drying out.

So why would this such dam be thought capable of supplying water to southern Queensland and where would the potential additional 100,000 come from?

Water NSW data shows that Mole River catchment annual rainfall was less than 600mm in 13 of the last 18 years and, as Professor Quentin Grafton, water economist, ANU and UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance tells us, at 600mm or less annual precipitation a dam will not fill.

Perhaps the Mole River dam is only meant as a water storage staging post as much of the water capacity is intended to travel elsewhere?

Perhaps Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud are paving the way for a raid on a headwater tributary, the Maryland River, or on the Upper Clarence River itself - in order to forever pipe bulk water to Littleproud's electorate of Maranoa in southern Queensland?

Two local governments in Littleproud's electorate are lobbying hard for permission to pipe Clarence River water to their areas and, after all the Mole River is approximately 79kms as the crow flies from the headwaters of the Clarence River as well as less than 57kms in a direct line from Stanthorpe in Maranoa.


Thursday, 17 October 2019

The real reasons behind the push to dam and divert water from the Clarence River catchment


Whenever local government areas within the Murray-Darling Basin decide to renew their almost perpetual lobbying of federal and state governments for consent to dam and divert one or more rivers within the Clarence River catchment they usually have a hidden agenda accompanying their public call for fresh water for inland towns during times of water scarcity.
It has never been about needing water for towns which might run out of water by late 2020. Any new dam couldn’t even be ‘shovel ready’ in less than two to three years, while rushing construction would take a similar time period to complete and filling a dam would take more than three years on top of that – if it could be achieved at all in an Australian climate which has been drying for the last sixty years.
What these councils are really seeking is the means to grow their own local businesses and expand their own regional economies at the expense of Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour City current and future businesses and regional economies.
One of the mayors openly states that “water is the new currency” - echoing that other sentiment doing the rounds, ‘water is the new gold’.
Take these latest water raiding schemes……….
1. MARYLAND RIVER DAM AND DIVERSION SCHEME FOR THE BENEFIT OF ONE NSW AND THREE QLD LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS
According to Daily News in Warwick Qld, Southern Downs Council has a wish list for growth; Councillor Marika McNichol said the council had a wish list of significant infrastructure projects that would shape, steer and secure the region’s future.“This is an ambitious list of projects, but also a list of essential infrastructure projects that will benefit our region and build a sustainable future for the Southern Downs,” Cr McNichol said.“Council has a strong long-term vision for the region which involves major infrastructure projects.”
On its own website this council stated; “Southern Downs Regional Mayor, Tracy Dobie said a number of exciting projects in the Southern Downs were due to commence or be completed, creating employment opportunities, encouraging population growth and stimulating strong economic activity,”
One of those proposed major infrastructure projects to allow economic expansion in this particular local government areas is a “Pipeline diversion of water from the Clarence River in NSW to Tenterfield, Southern Downs, Western Downs and Toowoomba”. This proposal is being submitted to Infrastruture Australia seeking funding to progress the interbasin-interstate water transfer scheme.

Access to water is seen as a key economic driver by Western Downs Regional Council. This includes being a driver of industry and business development as well as optimising tourism growth in the local government area.

Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio told a journalist that; water is the limiting factor in population growth and food production in this area”. His letter of support for the application to Infrastructure Australia for a dam in the Clarence River catchment reads in part; 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.”

Tenterfield Shire Council’s mayor told The Daily Examiner in Grafton NSW; “I have no problem supporting populations to support industry, but you cannot do it without infrastructure to secure water. These towns need to be supported, and especially where they are looking to expand. (Towns like) Warwick and Toowoomba should have had adequate water supply years ago and now we are playing catch up.” [my yellow highlighting]

Tenterfield Shire Council as part of the Northern New England High Country Regional Economic Development Strategy 2018-2022 supports the position that; “There is potential to dam both the Mole River in the western part of the Region and possibly one or more of the headwater tributaries of the Clarence River for irrigation water and the generation of hydroelectricity.”

Tenterfield’s Mole River proposal was tentatively costed sometime in the 1990s on the basis that private capital would build this dam and lease it back to either local or state government. The current proposal for a Mole River dam (20-40 per cent smaller than the original proposed water storage) is an initial 50/50 split between state and federal government.

2. ABERFOYLE RIVER DAM AND DIVERSION SCHEME TO BENEFIT GWYDIR SHIRE COUNCIL, GWYDIR RIVER AND COPETON DAM, NSW

The NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government’s State Infrastructure Strategy 2018-2038 points to a need to Identify investment options in the priority catchments of Gwydir and Macquarie”.

Gwydir Shire Council in its Gwydir Shire Economic Development Strategy 2017-2020 states an aim to; Manage water resources for a growing economy and environmental sustainability” as well as to improve/expand the Shire’s product base which includes the tourism potential of the Gwydir River and Copeton Dam.

The river and dam are seen as part of providing a Strong basis for growing the tourism sector and building visitation to the Shire’s towns and villages” - as well as being seen as “lifestyle advantages of the Shire.”

The development strategy also sees “access to plentiful water” as a prerequisite to growing local businesses and establishing new ones.

Seeing water as a mere commodity these Murray-Darling Basin councils and the federal government are pressuring the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government to such a degree that it is now considering altering planning and water legislation to allow NSW Water to have planning control over dam building and also allowing environmental safeguards to be overridden – in particular removing environmental/biodiversity assessments of proposed dam sites and potentially commencing construction before a cost-benefit analysis has been completed.