The weekly wash-up (August 11th)

The weeks that were in river and water news – August 11th, 2013 

Some retrospective “news” now I’m back from the US and another great trip to Talaroo.

China and India ‘water grab’ dams put ecology of Himalayas in danger  New research shows that India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan are engaged in a huge “water grab” in the Himalayas, as they seek new sources of electricity to power their economies. Taken together, the countries have plans for more than 400 hydro dams. Most Himalayan rivers have been relatively untouched by dams near their sources but if all plans go ahead, the Himalayas become the most dammed region in the world.

Tibetan Himalayas. Photo by S. Linke

Tibetan Himalayas. Photo by S. Linke

Concerns about lack of monitoring of Basin plan   Scientists, irrigators and environmentalists say there isn’t enough monitoring being done of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. States have recently reduced their contributions to the Murray Darling Basin Authority by more than $30 million and monitoring programs have suffered. ANU’s Dr James Pittock says a long-term monitoring scheme may not be enough to take into account issues such as the impact of climate change on river systems. “If you do see a negative environmental trend in five or ten years’ time, how will the government know what the cause was?” he asked.

Waste water set to ‘drought proof’ Perth   Treated waste water from toilets, showers and washing machines will be pumped back into Western Australia’s water system via ground aquifers following a three-year trial. During the trial every one of the 62,300 water samples passed strict health and safety guidelines. Since 1992, concerns over Perth’s future water supply have become increasingly urgent, with increased water consumption coupled with a drastic reduction in the flows into dams.

Andrew Cripps rules out more channel country irrigation  The Queensland Government says it will not release more water for irrigation, as it winds back Wild Rivers declarations in the state’s Channel Country. The State Government has also approved oil and gas developments near protected rivers in the area, but says they will be subject to strict environmental conditions.

Daly River. Photo: Courtesy TRaCK CERF

Daly River. Photo: Courtesy TRaCK CERF

Daly River advisory group canned   The Northern Territory Government has dismantled a long-running land and water community reference group. The Daly River Management Advisory Committee (DRMAC) was set up seven years ago to provide guidance on policy with input from all sectors including those of beef, farming, fishing and Indigenous. Chair John Childs says it’s disappointing to see the the committee wound up which he believes consulted widely with the community.

Dirty water and poor hygiene stunting the growth of millions   A new study has shown improving the quality of water and hand-washing could add half a centimetre on average to the height of children under five. It is thought that dirty water and poor hygiene can increase the risk of infection in the child’s gut, reducing the amount of nutrients that can be absorbed.

Minister deaf to Wild Rivers pleas  Murrandoo Yanner, director of the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation recently discussed changes to the State’s Wild Rivers legislation with premier Campbell Newman. ” We need employment and economic development, but we want development that is smart, that maintains the reasonable protections that Queensland’s Wild Rivers laws provide.” He is concerned that in south-west Queensland a minister is planning to remove reliable protection and allow large open cut coal mines and expansion of the coal seam gas industry.

Native water rats return to their former range  WA conservation organisations have undertaken the first translocation of native water rats in Australia, with the goal of returning the species to areas within their former range. Australia’s largest native rodents, the water rats (Hydromys chysogaster)  were once common throughout Western Australia but are now considered to be extinct in some regions.

Wadi Rum, Jordan. Photo by S. Linke

Wadi Rum, Jordan. Photo by S. Linke

Jordan readies the taps on controversial water project   Demand for water in Jordan  has increased 6% last year caused by development and the flow of Syrian refugees to Jordan. The Arab world is highly groundwater dependent with Libya, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia being 100% dependent on groundwater while Jordan and Egypt are 60% and 20% dependent respectively, However non-renewable aquifers (those not being recharged by rainwater) often have levels of radioactivity that exceed WHO guidelines.

Organic water claims misleading, says watchdog   A number of bottled water companies will stop advertising their products as ‘‘organic’’ after the the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission watchdog said that such a claim was nonsense.  In the context of food and drink, the word “organic” refers to agricultural products that have been farmed according to certain practices and standards. Because water is not an agricultural product it can not benefit from such practices and so it was inappropriate to label it “organic”, the ACCC said.