The weekly wash-up (August 17th)

The week that was in river and water news – August 17th, 2013

Reduced water usage doesn’t mean cheaper bills  West Australians have reduced their water consumption by more than 30% over the past decade. However, climate change has also resulted in reduced volumes of water flowing into dams. in 2010 less than a tenth of the volume of water flowed into WA dams than just 50 years previous. As a result, half of the state’s water supply will now come from desalination plants and groundwater with dams providing the smallest proportion. Unfortunately, these new water source are a lot more expensive.

Parliamentary inquiry to investigate effects of fracking  An upper house committee will look into the effect “fracking”, has on current and future land use and groundwater in Western Australia. The terms also include the reclamation and rehabilitation of land where fracking has occurred and the regulation of chemicals used in the process.

We need a smarter debate on developing northern Australia  Calls for a northern food bowl to double Australia’s food production appear to resonate with both major parties. And both seem sympathetic to new irrigation schemes fed from dams and groundwater pumping. These developments could be seen as a resurfacing of the “northern myth”. Fifty years on and after more than a billion taxpayer dollars, large-scale profitable sustainable irrigation industries have failed to persist in the Ord, Western Australia. Neither WA nor the Commonwealth appears to want a rigorous, independent benefit-cost analysis of the scheme.

Cotter Dam, Canberra. Photo by Hawkeye7

Cotter Dam, Canberra. Photo by Hawkeye7

Water vigilance vital despite new dam  Canberra has a big new dam but that does not mean the city can stop thinking about conserving water. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan places a cap on net water use per year. The good news is net usage is what is taken out of the system, less what is put back. And the ACT puts a lot of water back in the system via the sewage treatment plant on the Lower Molonglo. Another positive factor is that average water consumption has fallen from 214 to 100 kilolitres from 1997-98 to 2010-11.

A Texan tragedy: ample oil, no water  In Texas about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. While fracking is blamed by some, Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist argues fracking is not the only reason Texas is going dry – and nor is the drought. The latest shocks to the water system come after decades of overuse by ranchers, cotton farmers, and fast-growing thirsty cities.