The weekly wash-up (August 24th)

The week that was in river and water news – August 24th, 2013

NSW government divided over no fluoride councils intervention  Last week the Lismore City Council followed Byron Shire Council by deciding not to fluoridate its water. The NSW Health Minister is seeking legal advice on whether the State Government can force councils to add fluoride. The Premier however feels local governments should retain responsibility. Adding fluoride to drinking water is known to reduce oral health problems.

Irrigators slam Murray-Darling endangered listing   The section of the Murray River from its junction with the Darling River to the sea, as well as the Macquarie Marshes in western New South Wales have been listed as critically endangered under national environmental law. It covers the river as well as connected wetlands, floodplains and groundwater systems. Irrigators have criticised the lack of consultation prior to the announcement. [Also see a related commentary in The Conversation: Threatened by the fact that the Murray is endangered/ You’re in good company.

Many wetlands in the Murray-Darling suffered during the last drought. Photo; Arthur Mostead (MDBA)

Many wetlands in the Murray-Darling suffered during the last drought. Photo; Arthur Mostead (Copyright MDBC)

Toxic water leaks from storage tanks at Fukushima nuclear plant  About 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water has leaked from storage tanks at the Fukushima complex. The company says the water is still leaking and it has not yet pinpointed the source of it. It is possible the toxic water could contaminate groundwater and flow into the Pacific Ocean “in the longer term,” but the owner says it is working to avoid such a situation.

Most Indian rivers not palatable  Around half of the Indian rivers do not have water fit for direct human consumption, according to a recent study by India’s pollution watchdog.  The study was based on analysis of water samples from 445 rivers across India. Around one quarter were unfit even for bathing. The quality of river water has fallen dramatically since 1995. Increases in the discharge of untreated domestic sewage  are thought to be largely to blame.

Coal seam gas companies tackle beneficial water use  Water and how it is treated may well define the coal seam gas industry’s success or failure. For CSG companies water is a waste product, but under their conditions they have to find a beneficial use for it. Their choices are slim. They can reinject the water back underground, they can treat it and deliver it for town use, or treat it and let it be used for irrigation. All are expensive and the questions about what they will do with the salt – left over after treating the water – have been unanswered.